WR Brown might get shot at RB

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The defensive dream has been dead for a while.

Corey "Philly" Brown won't be lining up at cornerback at Ohio State as he once thought he would -- certainly not, considering that he's one of the most productive members of the Buckeyes offense.

But the other position the junior originally thought he might play could become an option for him Saturday against California. The Ohio State coaches are scrambling to find healthy options at running back, and Brown is a viable option there, though he came to terms with the fact that wide receiver is the best spot for him long ago.

"I actually thought I was going to come here for corner," Brown said. "I thought I was going to be a corner or a running back here, but I realized I was too skinny.

"When I came here and they had me in the receiver room, I was sad, I'm going to be honest."

There's nothing getting Brown down at that spot anymore, and there are also plenty of smiles on the coaches' faces as he has emerged as one of Ohio State's most dynamic playmakers in the passing game, with 13 catches through two games.

Brown could be in line to provide a boost on the ground as well after turning two carries into 33 yards in last week's win over UCF, including a 19-yard end-around that energized the spread offense. His previous experience as a rusher and the rash of injuries in the backfield might provide yet another way to prove his value for the Buckeyes -- and live out at least one of those expectations he had for his career before arriving on campus.

"That was my first time carrying the ball in a while, even though it wasn't like a real carry," Brown said. "It takes me back to high school days. I used to run the ball around a little bit, and it's always fun.

"I always want to run the ball. I joke around about it in the locker room with the running backs, telling them I could play running back and everything. If Coach [Urban] Meyer wants to use me to carry the ball, I'm fine with it."

Meyer might want to get the football in Brown's hands that way regardless of the situation given his impressive speed and ability to make sharp, elusive cuts. But getting Brown involved with the rushing attack against Cal might be a matter of necessity.

Jordan Hall, the projected starter at running back, could return from injury and make his first appearance of the season. He was medically cleared this week after offseason foot surgery, though the senior is likely to be rusty if he does play. Backup Carlos Hyde has been ruled out for at least a game with a sprained knee, and reserve option Warren Ball is done for the season after foot surgery during training camp.

That leaves true freshman Bri'onte Dunn and sophomore Rod Smith as the only true tailbacks in the stable. And while the Buckeyes will almost certainly turn to Brown in some capacity to provide a lift on the ground as they try to get healthy, they'll also have to find a balance through the air, given Brown's ability to stress defenses at the position he wasn't anticipating playing.

"He's a lot more mature as far as his intensity level and love for the game. That's still the same, but he's locked in and focused," running backs coach Stan Drayton said. "That maturity has really boosted him on the football field.

"Philly Brown is a guy who right now is probably the most productive offensive player we have. When things started to get a little out of kilter, we were able to find spots for him to make plays for us both as a receiver and getting him into the backfield for us."

It hasn't worked out exactly as Brown might have planned, but at least one old position dream might finally be coming true.