Terrelle Pryor is on the spot now

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By Paul M. Banks

Remember when Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was being recruited? As far as high school players go, his hype was bigger than Jesus, Jimmy Clausen, and Tim Couch combined. (This analogy is contingent on Jesus’ having played college football, and I’m assuming that’s true because he’s a part of Notre Dame’s wall of fame.)

Entering his junior season, Pryor hasn’t quite lived up to expectations.

Katie Witham covers Ohio State football and basketball for the Big Ten Network, and before spring practice started, I asked her what Buckeye fans will be focused in on this April.

“This spring all eyes, including mine will be on Terrelle Pryor and how he’s progressed. The kid is good. There’s no doubt about that,” Witham said.

“The biggest thing for me with Pryor is whether or not he can back up all the talk; and that means doing away with all the easy turnovers and making something happen every snap,” she continued.

Last fall Pryor was the preseason Big Ten Player of the year. He fell well short of that expectation, but he did have his moments. I’ll let Sport Bank’s Ohio St. expert Hans Hetrick sum up Pryor’s ’09.

Pryor obviously closed out the season with a fantastic Rose Bowl, but there are a few caveats that should be considered, namely, his release and decision making, both of which are slower than the Olentangy River in the middle of summer.

Oregon brought a lot of people into the box in that game. Remember, running the ball and playing good defense was OSU modis operandi throughout the season. The Ducks were going to make Pryor win the game through the air, and he did. But he did it against a small Oregon defense. Pryor’s ability to break tackles and a fantastic job by the offensive line gave him an extraordinary amount of time to throw the ball or pick a gap and run. In my mind, Pryor still hasn’t proved he can carry the team on his arm, which he’ll need to do if the Buckeyes are to make a serious run at the NCAA championship.

The good news for Pryor is that almost the entire offense is returning for 2010, standout tackle Jim Cordle being the only loss. That should help Pryor pick right up where he left off in the Rose Bowl.

That hasn’t exactly happened this spring. Outside of the most football-crazy portions of SEC and Big 12 country, there are precious few who care about spring football. But for those that do, eyes have indeed been watching Pryor, and the results have been less than promising.terrelle pryor

I’ll let the O-Zone describe what went down on Saturday.

The Buckeyes lost five starters on defense this off-season, but it didn’t show one bit Saturday. Jim Heacock and his defense held on to the coveted Scarlet practice jerseys with a 78-24 thumping of the offense in the spring jersey scrimmage…With the defense hounding him all morning, Pryor finished the game just 5-of-16 passing, unofficially, for 45 yards. Part of that was the cold weather, part of it was dropped passes and bad protection, but a big portion of it was just bad passing by the junior signal caller who was wearing a black no-contact jersey.

It’s become abundantly clear that Pryor hates wearing the black jersey, and seems to struggle when he is confined to being a pocket passer at the mercy of his offensive tackles. For that reason, Tressel doesn’t expect to get an accurate reading on Pryor’s progress from this type of setting.

The article also mentions how this game had only one touchdown in it. Yet there were 102 points scored! What the..?! If watching one team play itself doesn’t turn you off from spring football, then perhaps the inconsistent, incoherent, and indecipherable scoring systems for the games will.

Yes, it’s true that we can’t learn much about a quarterback from a game where he’s not allowed to be hit. And perhaps Pryor’s ugly stats do mean much less in a game where he’s not allowed to scramble (especially when analyzing a QB whose game has such an important running dimension). And we should recall that Pryor put up the most impressive statistics of his college career during his final six games in ’09, all Buckeye wins, capped off with a 338 yard day which earned him the Rose Bowl MVP award.

But this much is clear; if Pryor doesn’t challenge for national QB awards and/or lead his Buckeyes into the national championship discussion, his career will be a tremendous bust. In 2010, should Pryor struggle, those shortfalls can no longer be blamed on lack of experience.

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