COLUMBUS, Ohio — Isaiah Prince’s first season as a starter on the Ohio State offensive line wasn’t a great one. Prince did enough to win the right tackle job in 2016, but that was more a function of Ohio State’s shallow depth chart than Prince’s readiness for the role in his second season on campus.
He came to Columbus as the No. 5 tackle in the Class of 2015 and saw the field in a reserve role as a freshman. The talent was there, but Prince proved unable to handle the job against elite defensive ends two seasons ago. The Buckeyes allowed 6 sacks in a loss to Penn State and 8 in an overtime win against Michigan, with Prince often being the culprit. And while Clemson notched just 3 sacks against Ohio State in a College Football Playoff semifinal, the Tigers lived in the backfield and racked up 11 tackles for loss.
Last season, though, Prince began to play more like the talented tackle his high school career and frame (he’s 6-foot-7, 310 pounds) hinted he’d become. Despite playing one more game in 2017, Ohio State allowed seven fewer sacks than in 2016. Prince’s development played a factor in that improvement.
In 2016, Ohio State RT Isaiah Prince had the worst pass-block efficiency rating we've charted… this year he ranks in the 88th percentile pic.twitter.com/O8vdlpipHh
— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) October 17, 2017
“If I didn’t play my sophomore season, I don’t think I’d be the player that I am today. I am really confident. Those lessons have taught me that when things get hard, just keep going,” Prince said. “It taught me how to work and it made me who I am.
“After that year, my focus was to just play as hard as I can and just have really great focus on what I needed to do to get better. I also apply that to the younger guys in my room now, showing them what that example looks like. Just be a leader for them and someone they can look up to.”
With left tackle Jamarco Jones off to the NFL, Prince is ready to block the blind side for the quarterback who ultimately wins the starting job at Ohio State. With center Billy Price also gone, Prince is the elder statesman among the returning starters on the line.
The progress Prince made from his first season as a starter to his second hinted at big things to come, and if Prince can continue to make strides he has the physical tools to become an elite left tackle.
“The improvements that he has made and how he has matured the last couple years is really unbelievable,” center Brady Taylor said. “Me and him really bonded from when he came in until now. He has got a lot of respect from people in the room. We really look up to him even though he is younger than I am.
“He comes up all the time and helps me, whether it be hand [placement] or sets, and of course I respect his opinion because he has become a really good player and a really good leader for us.”