COLUMBUS - Preseason camp is college football's purgatory. It is tortuous exertion in unbearable heat, normally accompanied by humidity that weighs on the participants like a cement jacket.
Players are not customarily eager or anxious or excited about the walking through those gates to get this ordeal started, but a number of the Ohio State Buckeyes used those very terms to describe their feelings on the eve of the start of their training camp.
Tomorrow they get their first in-person, up-close, live-action look at Terrelle Pryor, the quarterback of the future for the Buckeyes who might just be good enough to revamp the playbook of the present.
"He's a special player, a special talent, and since I haven't seen what he can do on the field yet, I'm kind of eager for camp to get started," Ohio State senior quarterback Todd Boeckman said. "I think everybody is looking forward to seeing what he can do, and we're excited about that."
Pryor was the most coveted, most pursued, and most hyped high school player in the country last fall. He led his Jeannette, Pa., high school team to state championships in both football and basketball, and was the two-time player of the year in football. Pryor is the only player in Pennsylvania high school history to both throw and run for more than 4,000 career yards.
"I think we all know Terrelle is a heck of an athlete, and we're all pretty energized about getting to camp since we'll get the chance to see what he can do, first-hand," senior All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis said.
"There's been a lot of hype surrounding him, and it will be nice to get out on the same field with Terrelle and see that talent at work. Camp is about a lot of things, and one of them is it's the first time we see a lot of the new recruits play. That's an exciting time."
Laurinaitis said he has been impressed with Pryor's work ethic and regimen over the summer, when the emphasis has been primarily on conditioning and strength training. And although Boeckman is clearly the starter and the offense is crafted to utilize his talents as a passer and the punishing running skills of tailback Beanie Wells, Laurinaitis likes the additional facet Pryor can bring as an elusive and athletic runner.
''If he proves we can put in some plays that will make our offensive attack more diverse, we'll definitely use him, even if it's only for a few downs here and there,'' Laurinaitis said. ''We'll see how it unfolds, but Terrelle definitely has that extra dimension. The kid's a special talent."
Malcolm Jenkins, a two-time All-Big Ten defensive back for the Buckeyes, said the best thing for Pryor to do is disregard all the hoopla that has surrounded him and concentrate on his preparation for the upcoming season.
"I think for a long time he's been hearing from everybody about how great a player he is, and how he should come into college and be a star right away, and all," Jenkins said. "He can't listen to all that hype or let all the attention affect him. Like every other guy, he's got a tough few weeks ahead of him when we start camp. His focus needs to be on that."
Although Ohio State coach Jim Tressel kept his specific plans for Pryor close to the vest at the recent Big Ten Conference preseason football meetings in Chicago, he did not rule out the potential of a modified two-quarterback system.
Florida was very effective with just such a system in 2006, when senior Chris Leak was spelled in certain situations by freshman Tim Tebow, who brought considerable running skills to the position.
"I think I am as anxious as anybody to find out what kind of things Terrelle can do for us," Tressel said. "It's not a matter of what position he plays or what year in school a player is. Our philosophy is that if you do the work, you'll get the opportunities.
"We still haven't got to camp, so it's early. But Terrelle has demonstrated that he is a very hard worker, and a young man who wants to learn as much as he can. If he deserves to rotate in there at quarterback, then that's what we'll do. Right now I can tell you he has demonstrated a desire to be the best quarterback he can be, and that's exciting for us."
With Boeckman returning as the starter and a well-proven commodity as last year's first-team All-Big Ten quarterback, Pryor will have the optimum environment to learn the offense and progress at a comfortable pace, according to Ohio State's two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin.
"I think this is an ideal way for a young man like Terrelle to come in," said Griffin, who remains a close observer of the football program in his role as president of the Ohio State Alumni Association.
"But he's a competitor, so even though Terrelle has Boeckman in front of him, he is going to compete, studying the game, and in the back of his mind he probably feels he can get in there and compete. I would try to use his talent the best way I could to help the football team."
Griffin said the Buckeyes need to play Pryor right away, since in this era of early departures for the NFL, his time at Ohio State might be cut short. Griffin also cited the case of another highly touted freshman who did not spend a lot of time on the sidelines with then coach Woody Hayes before testing the waters.
"I would not sit him down, because any more if you do that, you never know what is going to happen with that kid. You might only get two more years," Griffin said.
"Woody probably would do it like he did with Art Schlichter (1978-81). Schlichter was also a number one recruit coming out of high school, and Woody played him the very first game. Art Schlichter ended up being a fabulous football player at Ohio State."
Pryor and the rest of the Buckeyes report to a campus area hotel today, and the first practice is tomorrow.
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