CARSON, Calif. - There have not been many games in Terrelle Pryor's career where he was the "other" quarterback. A game of that nature will be played on Friday, not far from Carson.
As the Ohio State Buckeyes went through a second day of practice yesterday south of downtown Los Angeles, preparations were taking place in nearby Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
In that New Year's Day game, Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli is the featured quarterback.
Masoli has good numbers, like Pryor. He can be equally dangerous as a runner and as a passer. But Masoli led his team to dramatic wins in its final two games to get the Ducks the Pac-10 championship, and get them into the Rose Bowl. Pryor has yet to direct a Houdini-like comeback, or earn that signature win.
For the Buckeyes, underdogs to Oregon while fighting to prevent a fourth straight bowl loss, this looks like the time and the place for Pryor to have his day in the sun.
Pryor was nursing a sore ankle as the season moved into its final weeks, and that limited the role the OSU coaching staff was comfortable with the sophomore taking on. But because the Buckeyes have not played in more than a month, Pryor should be as healthy as he was for the season-opener.
For senior offensive lineman Jim Cordle, the prospect of Pryor at 100 percent evokes a sly, anticipatory grin.
"When Terrelle is healthy and he can make plays, why not let him make plays," Cordle said.
Pryor finished the season as the Buckeyes' leading rusher with 707 yards, averaging five yards per carry and scoring seven rushing touchdowns. He passed for 1,828 yards and 16 more touchdowns.
Cordle gave his assessment on where Pryor is now, almost two months removed from the ankle injury.
"He is running now as fast as he ever has," Cordle said.
That might be rosy music to the ears of Buckeyes fans, but it likely is not what Oregon coach Chip Kelly wants to hear. Pryor was reportedly Ohio State's fastest player in preseason testing and has repeatedly displayed a fifth gear that allows him to turn the corner to avoid pursuit.
"I just kind of marvel at him because people that big aren't supposed to move that fast," Kelly said of the 6-6, 235-pound Pryor. "He's got a tremendous skill set for someone that big."
Cordle is among those who expect the Buckeyes to showcase Pryor in some creative ways in the Rose Bowl. Cordle recalled fondly the opening play of last season's Fiesta Bowl in which Pryor lined up at wide receiver, and the fact that Pryor had a touchdown reception in the game.
"It seems like every year we have done something different," he said.
Without giving up the company secrets, Cordle indicated that over the past month the Buckeyes have been working on some innovative twists, while staying true to the ball-control approach that coach Jim Tressel long has favored.
"As far as the offense and putting in different plays, you want to keep working on what you're doing, but you also want to work on what has worked against Oregon," Cordle said. "We'll put some things in for that."
Tressel, who works very closely with the quarterbacks, said that whatever the game plan and however Pryor's role is expanded or morphed for the Rose Bowl, Pryor will consume it.
"Terrelle, he loves to prepare and he gets excited about competition, so I'm sure he's excited about what a game like this could mean to him and to his team," Tressel said.
Ohio State running back Dan "Boom" Herron said that while the game plan has changed from week to week, he senses that Pryor will trust the approach Tressel goes with and excel in his role.
"Playing quarterback, of course you want to throw the ball a little bit more," Herron said. "But he's going with whatever works."
OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said Pryor has gotten better at the little things as the season progressed.
"He really did a great job taking care of the football down the stretch, which is a key for any quarterback," Bollman said. "He is always a key threat to run for us. He can split a defense running the ball and pick up key first downs. That's all a factor … and sometimes those are missed factors."
Bollman said Pryor has become a better leader while developing into a more refined quarterback, and that the rest of the Buckeyes know a wild card is in play every time Pryor grabs the football.
"His teammates know that he has the potential to make some plays," Bollman said.
Cordle said one of Pryor's real strengths heading into the Rose Bowl is not necessarily the obvious things - his speed, size, and athletic ability. Cordle thinks his quarterback is much better at managing the mental side of the game.
"I think he's done a better job as he has gotten older and more mature in handling things in a more-positive fashion," Cordle said. "He is a perfectionist, but instead of pouting and getting mad about things, he has been constructive and done a great job of leading. He's not letting things fluster him."
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