Loss of Pryor to OSU still hurts UM

11/19/2008
BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor has thrown 10 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.
Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor has thrown 10 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.

COLUMBUS - Is Terrelle Pryor a touchy subject, after he allowed himself to be intensely courted by both sides in the bitter Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, and the wooing carried on well past the stroke of midnight in the recruiting season?

Are the Wolverines still a bit steamed that the freshman quarterback chose the Buckeyes, and has led them to seven wins in his eight games as a starter?

"Go on to the next question," Michigan offensive lineman David Moosman said Monday when Pryor's name came up. "I don't want to talk about that right now. All I really want to focus on is guys we have for us on our sideline. He's on their sideline."

Pryor is indeed on Ohio State's side of the ramparts in this battle, and in a dominant role - unusual for a freshman.

"Terrelle's no ordinary talent, so he's an exception in a lot of ways," Buckeyes sophomore wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said following last weekend's win over Illinois.

"He was put in a real high-profile position, with a lot of pressure on him, and I think he's done a great job. He's gotten more comfortable and more confident as the weeks have gone by."

In an unprecedented move during his tenure at Ohio State, Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel benched senior and team captain Todd Boeckman after three games and went with Pryor at quarterback. Eight games later - Ohio State has won seven of those - Pryor seems undeterred by the fast track and the glare of the lights.

"I'm confident Terrelle can handle it," Tressel said.


Besides his gifts of talent, intellect and athletic ability, Pryor has the internal combustion Tressel said is necessary to constantly refine those skills. That's why his coach expresses no trepidation about sending a freshman out to face Michigan in the final home game for 28 OSU seniors.

"Terrelle has done a good job of accepting coaching. He loves being coached, and he wants to do well so badly," Tressel said. "I remember him saying clear back in August, he'll do anything to help this senior class have a great year. That's the way he is."

Pryor, who rushed for a season-high 111 yards at Illinois, has 10 touchdown passes with just three interceptions this year, and has completed 90 of 139 passes. He has rushed for six touchdowns and 560 yards.

"I'm just trying to do my part and help this offense, help my team," Pryor said. "I've got great guys all around me."

Fullback Brandon Smith said he's watched Pryor quickly evolve into a leader who takes command in the huddle.

"One thing that impresses me is he learns from each play," Smith said.

"He remembers things and learns from his experience, which is great for a quarterback. He is taking control, and now he's getting the finer points of being a quarterback down."

A hypothetical situation was posed to Tressel - what would have happened if Pryor would have picked Michigan - and he sidestepped that mine field.

"I think Terrelle Pryor can be a difference maker," Tressel said, "but the good news is, we don't have to even consider that. He'd have to compete to get in their lineup like he had to compete to get in our lineup."

The Wolverines have had close to a season's worth of film on Pryor to digest. Linebacker Obi Ezeh said Pryor, who had more than 8,500 rushing and passing yards in his high school career, looks the most comfortable - and has the greatest impact - when he gets into open space.

"I think he's most dangerous when he gets out of the pocket, because that lets him go back to high school a little bit, where he can just kind of run-and-gun," Ezeh said.

"He's got awesome athleticism when he gets out of the pocket, so you have to contain him. When he's back there in the pocket, he's just another quarterback."

Contact Matt Markey at

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.