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Football: Isaiah Prince adapts to blocking an RPO offense

Ohio State senior right tackle Isaiah Prince answers questions from the media at Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Aug. 28, 2018. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

The Ohio State football team sat in silence. It had just suffered its first loss of the season, a 49-20 loss on the road at Purdue on Oct. 20.

As a captain on the offensive line, Ohio State senior left tackle Isaiah Prince put it on himself to send his teammates into the bye week with a few words of encouragement.

“We lost and at Ohio State, we are not used to losing, but I mean, that’s a part of life,” Prince said. “The adversity, you are going to get hit, you gotta get back up. There’s no point in pouting about it, crying about it. You got hit, you lost. We can’t go back in time and change it, so the only thing we can do is fix the mistakes and focus on what you do in the future.”

But as Prince leads Ohio State into its Nov. 3 game against Nebraska, he’s not forgetting the loss to Purdue: It is what is driving him.

Prince is a self-proclaimed sore loser, a mentality, he said, that comes out in every aspect of life, from video games to bench press reps.

He doesn’t like losing. But as a senior lineman used to blocking for a running quarterback, Prince has had to take some losses on the line this season as Ohio State runs a run-pass option with a pocket-passing quarterback.

With this offensive approach for the unit as a whole, Prince knows what his job is.

“Obviously, we don’t have a running quarterback anymore. We have a quarterback who stands in the pocket and throws, so that’s just what happens on RPOs,” Prince said. “It’s a run first, so my job description is to run block first. He pulled the ball and threw it and I was downfield. That’s our offense now.”

But Prince said the problem is when Ohio State is running an RPO, he doesn’t know what the backfield is doing while blocking.

With the run block-first mentality, Prince has gotten beat a few times in big ways, including allowing two sacks to Minnesota junior defensive end Carter Coughlin on Oct. 13.

For Prince, the mistake was easy to identify. He was run blocking, Coughlin was pass rushing, allowing him to easily get past Prince and get to redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins, something the senior offensive lineman is not proud of.

“I’m a guy with a lot of pride. I don’t want to give up any sacks. My goal was to have a no-sack season,” Prince said. “In that situation, there’s nothing I can do. That’s just part of the offense. I mean, the quarterback has to get rid of the ball fast. If he don’t, I mean there’s a reason why he didn’t. You can’t fault him for that. That’s just part of the offense.”

As Ohio State prepares for the Cornhuskers, the running game is on the forefront of Prince’s mind, trying to figure out how the five players up front can help make space for sophomore J.K. Dobbins and redshirt junior Mike Weber, both former 1,000-yard running backs.

Prince said it could take more downhill running plays, knowing what to do on scheduled rushes to create space, create holes, making it more of a traditional running game.

But Prince did say that he will do whatever the coaches tell him to do, whether it’s continuing to play the guess game in RPO blocking or if it’s more of a traditional blocking approach in some cases. For him and his unit, the senior offensive lineman is just eager to perform.

“I think everybody on the offensive line is very eager,” Prince said. “That is what we pride ourselves on, it’s toughness. Our program is based on toughness. That’s something we are very excited to get back to.”

Instead of leading a quiet locker room, Prince plans to lead an Ohio State offensive line he describes as “pissed off.”

However, for a player self-described as one who doesn’t like to talk about himself, Prince seems to want to prove something personally too.

He’s pissed off, and he doesn’t like to lose.

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