COLUMBUS — When Jyaire Brown was a sophomore in high school, his father suggested he switch sides of the ball.
Four years later while working to earn paying time at two different positions in the Ohio State defense, the younger Brown had only one conclusion.
“That’s the great thing about having a father figure growing up,” he said. “They see you every day. They know their child basically. And as a parent, I’m pretty sure you know your child and what their strengths and weaknesses are, and I’m pretty sure he saw my strengths and what my weakness was.
“(At the time) I was kind of like, ‘Dad what are you doing?’ But I knew it was for the greater good at the end of the day.”
Brown arrived in Columbus last January as a four-star recruit from Lakota West.
He was the nation’s No. 192 prospect overall and ranked 24th nationally among cornerbacks, but there was not a lot of buzz about him being a candidate for early playing time.
That changed when injuries hit the cornerback room in the preseason lingered into the start of the season for multiple older players.
Brown started in the Week 4 win over Wisconsin and saw action in nine games overall.
He logged eight tackles, broke up three passes and forced a fumble, experience he finds invaluable now.
“It just gives me tremendous confidence,” he said. “Just going out there and playing, having that confidence knowing that last year helped me and this year should be a great year.”
Brown was with the second team defense during Ohio State’s first scrimmage of the spring last Saturday.
Denzel Burke gives cornerbacks coach Tim Walton one returning starter, but he stressed he viewed everything as being open when spring began.
He had junior Jordan Hancock joining Burke on the first team in the scrimmage with Mississippi transfer Davison Igbinosun the other second-team corner.
“Man, we’re just all getting each other better each and every day,” Brown said. “We all feed off one another, and we all bring a great intensity and energy when we come out to the field.”
Brown also has been getting a look at the Nickel back along with fellow class of 2022 member Ryan Turner, though they are behind seniors Cam Martinez and Ja’Had Carter.
“We’re just moving guys around,” Walton said. “He has a good skill-set, man. He has good quickness, a good change of direction, good cover skills. He can come out of breaks really well. So we like to just give looks at that stuff just to see how it all ties together in the end.”
Brown is not the only former Firebird in the Ohio State secondary this spring.
Malik Hartford, who just graduated from Lakota West in December so he could enroll early (as Brown did), is part of a safeties group looking to collectively atone for a tough 2022.
Hartford was with the third team during the scrimmage (behind sixth-year senior Josh Proctor and sophomore Kye Stokes at free safety), but coach Perry Eliano likes what he has seen so far.
“Really, really good,” Eliano said. “Malik has come in and he’s just worked. You see the talent that you saw when he was at Lakota West. He’s extremely smart. High football IQ. Very, very humble, young man that has come in and he’s shown flashes of what he can be. He’s still learning the game of football as far as on the collegiate level. But I’ll tell you what, I’ve been pleased what I’ve seen.”
Aside from learning a new defense and how to practice at the college level, Hartford is also expected to bulk up his 6-foot-2, 183-pound frame.
“We’re constantly on him about nutrition,” Eliano said. “(Ohio State director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti) and the staff are on him in the weight room, and he’s thriving. He’s thriving, and I’ve been really, really pleased with his maturity and his growth to this point.”
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