C.J. Saunders has flipped the script on diet books.

The junior walk-on receiver from Dublin Coffman paid heed last year when Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, while praising his work ethic and flair for running routes and catching the ball, also said he needed to be a lot stouter than 177 pounds to gain more playing time.

In essence, Meyer hung a steak in front of Saunders, and the former three-sport star at Coffman is going for it, having risen to 185 already.

“He was honest,” Saunders said of Meyer. “He wasn’t going to hide anything away. It was true. I think I added value in the pass game, but as far as the run game, I wasn’t effective enough (as a blocker) to be at Ohio State.”

Naturally lean, Saunders is giving it the old college eating try, and he has added those 8 pounds mainly by doing a lot of what the diet books say not to do. But that was only after he tried something else.

“I thought it was weight lifting; the harder you lift, the more weights you lift, you’re going to get bigger,” Saunders said. “That’s not necessarily true. It will be part of it, but for me, it was eating consistently. It’s eating six, seven meals a day, every two, three hours, to keep food in the system.

“I thought it was, you can just eat the three meals a day, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and (that) I’ve got to lift. I’ve just got to keep working hard.

"But you’ve got to really invest your lifestyle to it, and the coaches pushing that lifestyle on me, saying, ‘If you do this, it’s like you can be this good.’”

He has found a couple of approaches particularly effective.

“I like steak a lot, so I’ll just buy a bunch of cheap steaks at Kroger and make those at night,” Saunders said. “But I think a big thing is eating before you go to bed, whether it’s peanut butter sandwiches, protein shakes. While you sleep, you have those eight hours of not eating, it sits in your stomach and can kind of digest.”

Although Saunders and the Buckeyes had two spring practices last week before taking spring break this week, they won’t get to full contact until they return March 19. Saunders is looking forward to that to find out whether he will be a more effective blocker.

“But the lower body, as far as explosiveness in and out of breaks, I was always quick and could beat you with my feet, but now I can push past you and push you vertical,” Saunders said. “That was something I struggled with last year.”

Senior hybrid back Parris Campbell already can see the physical difference in Saunders.

“He’s starting to get ripped up, starting to get muscles and stuff like that,” Campbell said, smiling. “But C.J., he’s hands on going to crack the rotation this year.”

Saunders proved last year he has the ability, Campbell said, something lost on the TV announcers calling the Buckeyes’ blowout loss at Iowa. Campbell, who had stayed home that day because of a concussion, said he heard them comment that seeing “walk-on” Saunders on the field meant that OSU had thrown in the towel.

“That kind of upset me because I know what kind of player C.J. is,” Campbell said. “I think once game day comes (this year) and everyone sees him on the field, they’re going to be, ‘All right, he’s the real deal.’"