In one of the best games of the college weekend, Ohio State takes on Penn State. I’m sure the Eagles will be keeping a close eye on this one as they love poaching from their local schools. With that being said, here are 4 prospects to keep your eye on during the game.
Jaquan Briskier, Safety, Penn State
Penn State struggled a lot last season with their pass defense – something that seems to haunt all Pennsylvania teams. However, it was a pretty young group last season and that includes former JUCO product Jaquan Briskier.
Briskier has good size for his position, standing at 6 foot 1 and weighing in at 212 pounds. He has incredible speed and athletic ability that will help him develop the rest of his game really well. Briskier had a total tackle tally of 31 last season with 2 interceptions and 4 passes defended and I really like his versatility at the position.
Briskier is a very strong tackler downfield and takes fantastic angles. There is a real pop behind his pads that allows him to hit targets hard and make sure they go down. His speed helps him cover the fastest receivers well in deep coverage, as well as coming in to help stuff the run or moving sideline-to-sideline.
The one issue Briskier has, and it’s something he desperately needs to show this season, is he’s incredibly raw at the position. He has all the speed, size and tackling ability to play the position at a high level but in terms of coverage, not biting on double play and play actions, and reading the QB’s eyes, he needs to massively improve still, which currently makes him a day 3 prospect with a lot of upside for a team.
Des Holmes, OL, Penn State
In terms of offensive line help, Howie Roseman has been heavily criticised this season for not bringing in enough cover across the line and the Eagles have paid the price because of that. Well, one Penn State lineman who could catch the attention of the Eagles is junior lineman Des Holmes.
Holmes was initially a basketball player before making the move over to the football team, standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing in at just under 325 pounds, Holmes certainly has the size and body to play the position and it’s safe to say he was a major help to Penn State’s offensive game last season.
At Penn State, offensive line coach Phil Trautwein loves to develop his guys into the best punchers in college football, and in Des Holmes, he certainly has that. Holmes’ punch technique and sheer power is phenomenal, one of the strongest I’ve seen in a while and it makes Holmes a great run-blocker.
This season is a crucial one for Holmes as he needs to show improvements in the pass protection side of the game. Whilst his powerful punch allows the running game to flourish, Holmes struggles to keep pass-rushing defensive ends from getting to his QB. He’s great initially but after that first piece of contact, Holmes struggles to keep guys in their place, it’s the main reason he isn’t the starting tackle at Penn State.
Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State
I don’t think I even need to say this next line but I will anyway. The Eagles are in dire need at linebacker. Nate Gerry is out there playing blind football, Duke Riley seems like a great leader, T.J. Edwards and Alex Singleton have shown promise, and the Eagles seem scared to even play their two rookies.
Werner was a standout linebacker for Ohio State last season, mainly playing in the SAM position. He did a fantastic job at covering all sorts of responsibilities and even dropped in to play at safety on some snaps, something the Eagles will love. In 2018, Werner recorded 7 pass defenses, 3 sacks, a forced fumble, and 58 total tackles, whilst in 2019, he recorded 2 fumble recoveries, 64 total tackles and 3 passes defended.
Werner can do it all at the linebacker role and Ohio State have shown they have complete faith in him, as they’ve moved him to the WILL position for this season, taking over from Malik Harrison, who departed for the Baltimore Ravens and has been a starter ever since in the NFL. If Werner shines at WILL too, the Eagles have to put the 6 foot 3, 242-pound prospect on their linebacker shortlist.
Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
It looked for a while that Wade wouldn’t return to play for Ohio State this year as he announced his declaration for the NFL draft, however, when the Big Ten announced it was playing this year, Wade returned to Ohio to play as their number 1 cornerback, and he should definitely be on the Eagles radar.
Wade has played all sorts of position for Ohio since he arrived, mainly playing safety and slot corner, an attribute that we all know Jim Schwartz adores in his defensive players, however, Wade has the skillset and size, with him being 6 foot 1 and 195 pounds, to play outside and that’s exactly where he’ll play for Ohio State.
Wade isn’t the type of guy who will go out there and be an interception machine, he only has 4 in his college career. However, Wade is a fantastic tracker of the ball who can easily lock down even the best of receivers and he can prove that by playing well on the outside this season. With 16 passes defended in his career so far, it projects well for the guy from Ohio who are responsible for creating corners like Denzel Ward, Marshon Lattimore and Jeff Okudah.
With two highly ranked colleges going head to head, there are multiple other players I could have picked to highlight in this piece, like Ohio State’s defensive end Zach Harrison, or their wide receiver Chris Olave, or on the other side, I could have picked either of Penn State’s tight ends Zack Kuntz or Pat Freiermuth or safety Lamont Wade. Either way, the game is set up to be a great battle between two colleges who will field star-studded lineups which may feature a future Eagle, who knows?
Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire