COLUMBUS - Terrelle Pryor was as big-time as they come when he left high school and became part of the Ohio State football program in 2008 - the national player of the year, MVP of a prestigious all-star game, and the top-rated recruit in the country, according to every source that counted.
But even all of the accolades, and playing on a pedestal since the first time he touched a football, did not prepare Pryor for the kind of scrutiny he would face as quarterback of the Buckeyes. His throwing motion, his decision-making and his sometimes wavering consistency have been dissected in the media and on the message boards.
Even the eyeblack Pryor chose for the opening game this season created a flurry of interest, and controversy. He had "Vick" under one eye as a tribute to NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who had just been released from prison where he served time for his involvement in illegal dog fighting.
"He had been a big role model to me as I was growing up - and he was out of jail … that's why I did it," Pryor said.
"Some people look at that kind of thing and say 'you're the quarterback at Ohio State, or you're the quarterback at Florida or any big-time college,' so they're going to see what's in your eyeblack. Maybe it was stupid, just to get involved in that, I shouldn't have put myself in that position."
On the field Pryor has gone 13-2 as a starter for the Buckeyes, and just five games into his sophomore season at Ohio State, he has 3,000 yards of career total offense. The 372 yards of offense he generated against Toledo three weeks ago was the fifth-best performance in OSU history, but still the questions come up over whether Pryor is a great athlete playing quarterback, or a quarterback who happens to be a great athlete.
"I can hold my own at the quarterback position," Pryor said. "I'm not saying I'm the greatest, I'm not saying I'm bad. But I feel I can hold my own and I feel I can get the receivers the ball and I can take the team down the field. I feel confident in doing that."
The No. 9 Buckeyes face an unbeaten Wisconsin team here tomorrow, and in last season's dramatic 20-17 OSU victory in Madison, it was Pryor who broke free on an 11-yard touchdown run with just more than a minute to play in the game to give Ohio State the win. That play perpetuated both his legend, and the tag that he is a "run first" kind of quarterback.
"I feel I can make some throws and get the ball moving downfield, and I know I can run the ball and get eight or 10 yards a play whenever I run," Pryor said. "I just feel confident in what I'm doing, and whatever the coaches are calling. I feel confident."
Through five games, Pryor has rushed 55 times for 298 yards this season - best on the Buckeyes - and scored three touchdowns on the ground. He is 67-of-115 passing for 861 yards and eight touchdowns, but he has thrown five interceptions.
"A pick [interception] is always a terrible thing," Pryor said.
"All of the picks I've thrown this year are just off of stupid mistakes. Maybe one or two of them were high or got tipped, but I take the blame. They're just stupid mistakes - stuff we can't have."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel continually remarks about how hard Pryor works at all of the elements of playing quarterback - the mechanics of throwing, his timing, studying defenses on film, etc. - and Tressel said Pryor's increase in interceptions from last season (4) compared to this year might just be the result of the Buckeyes calling more passing plays.
"The more you throw, the chances are you're going to have a couple that don't go exactly where you want them," Tressel said. "But it's something we'll keep working on."
Pryor said he feels like he is making progress toward his goal of becoming a complete quarterback, but the success of the team and helping the Buckeyes win a fifth straight Big Ten championship takes precedence over his personal development.
"I'm just happy to be getting better and better every day and every game, and making better decisions as well," Pryor said. "But the victories are the most important thing."
Contact Matt Markey at
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Terrelle Pryor was as big-time as they come when he left high school and became part of the Ohio State football program in 2008 - the national player of the year, MVP of a prestigious all-star game, and the top-rated recruit in the country, according to every source that counted.