Stock Up/Stock Down: Isaiah Prince Improving, C.J. Saunders Coming On, Defensive Line Depth Takes a Hit

By James Grega on September 26, 2017 at 10:10 am
Isaiah Prince

Ohio State's offense showed improvement for the second week in a row, and for the second week in a row, it got better in a new area. 

After finding success with the run-pass option against Army, the Ohio State quarterbacks and receivers were able to temporarily plug the holes of what was a sinking boat after a 31-16 loss to Oklahoma. 

A week later against UNLV, the Buckeyes were able to build on their progress and find success in new areas. Those areas included more passes over the middle, which were made possible by excellent offensive line play. That is where we start this week's version of Stock Up/Stock Down. 

stock up

Isaiah Prince - Ohio State junior offensive tackle

After being the weak link up front for the Buckeyes a year ago, Prince has been solid for Ohio State through four games this season, outside of a few missteps against Oklahoma. Prince had what Meyer called his best week of practice as a Buckeye leading up to the UNLV game, and was named Ohio State's offensive player of the game against the Rebels. 

I think things are finally starting to click for Prince, which will pay dividends for Ohio State down the stretch. Prince's true test will be against Penn State, a team against which he struggled mightily last season. Like Meyer said Monday, the best offensive line in the conference usually wins the league, and if Prince continues to improve, the Buckeyes might just have the best offensive front five in the Big Ten. 

C.J. Saunders - Ohio State walk-on wide receiver

How long until someone can give this kid a scholarship? Seriously, this kid is for real. 

While he isn't ready to play meaningful reps due to his lack of size in the slot, Saunders has proven in a few garbage time reps that he belongs in FBS college football. He led Ohio State in receiving against UNLV with six catches for 102 yards and a score, running crisp routes and making defenders miss at times in the open field. 

The reality is, however, that Saunders is listed at just 176 pounds, and that is probably after he was pushed into a pool with full football gear on. If the Ohio State strength staff can put some weight on him without compromising his speed, I think Saunders is capable of playing in Columbus with the first-team offense. However, until he gets bigger, he is a liability on offense in terms of his perimeter blocking, which is what is keeping him off the field. 

Saquon Barkley - Penn State running back

It would be hard for Barkley's stock to be much higher after his early season success following last season's Rose Bowl, but after watching what the Penn State running back did to Iowa's defense, I am all aboard the Barkley hype train. 

Barkley, who is in the thick of the early Heisman Trophy race, gave us our first possible Heisman moment of the 2017 season. In fact, he might have given us two. The more impressive one in my mind is below, where Barkley does not only hurdle a defender, he takes an absolute shot from a second defender in mid-air and doesn't even seem phased. 

What this guy can do with the football in his hands is truly incredible. Penn State was lucky to walk out of Iowa City with a win on Saturday, but Barkley was stellar all night long. I remember watching Barkley for the first time in person in 2015 when he was a freshman at Ohio Stadium and thinking he could be a solid Big Ten running back. He has become the best running back in the country and a possible top-three NFL draft pick if he stays healthy. There's no player in the country with more hype right now, so I am buying all of the Barkley stock available. 

stock down

Ohio State Secondary

The Buckeye secondary has been in this spot for the majority of this series this season, but this week it's for a different reason. 

Ohio State's defensive backs were able to hold UNLV under 100 yards passing, but committed three pass interference penalties and a defensive holding call that resulted in four extra first downs for the Rebels. Against a better opponent, those penalties can be the difference between playing in Indianapolis in the first week of December or playing in the Outback Bowl. 

Granted, UNLV had some NFL-caliber wide receivers on the field, but Ohio State has set the bar high enough over the last few years that penalties like those are unacceptable. If the problems in the secondary continue, I find it hard to buy any stock in this group until they can make a positive influence on a game. 

Defensive line depth

Ohio State's defensive line has been tabbed as the best in the country all season, mainly because of the depth the Buckeyes have within Larry Johnson's unit. However, with Michael Hill still suspended, Malik Barrow out for the season and Robert Landers nursing a foot injury, the interior line depth has taken a significant hit. 

Dre'Mont Jones, Tracy Sprinkle and Davon Hamilton are Ohio State's remaining healthy upperclassmen on the inside. With Hill still out and Landers' status for the Rutgers game still up in the air, freshman Haskell Garrett might be called on to play extended minutes inside. For now, this shouldn't be too big of an issue, but Ohio State is one more injury away from possibly not being able to rotate any more bodies on the interior. 

Purdue football facilities

I've had Purdue with its stock up the last few weeks, but when I heard Jim Harbaugh's comments about the lack of air conditioning and unsanitary locker rooms, I was taken aback. 

A program that gets a good cut of revenue from the Big Ten should have at least basic A/C, especially for times like last weekend when temperatures rocket into the 90s. I know Purdue is on the verge of a shiny new football practice facility, but I have to imagine some of that money could have been used on an A/C unit or two for the locker rooms. It's really just a bad look for a school that otherwise has finally had some momentum in its football program for the first time in around a decade. 

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