|All eyes on Pryor for No. 6 Buckeyes|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 26 August 2009 08:30|
He would stand out anywhere because he stands 6-foot-6, a willowy athlete's body replete with tattoos. But in a city of more than 750,000 football-mad people, in a state that reveres its Buckeyes and particularly the guy who directs the Ohio State offense, no one takes their eyes off Terrelle Pryor.
When he goes out, he wears dark sunglasses to avoid the swarms of Buckeyes fans.
``I try it but it doesn't work,'' he said.
During the team's recent open scrimmage at Ohio Stadium, several thousand fans showed up. There wasn't much question about who they came to see. The flashbulbs fired every time Pryor took a snap, made a run or threw a pass.
d a third straight Bowl Championship Series appearance.
Now, as one of the few recognizable names on a talented but not well known sixth-ranked Buckeyes squad, Pryor is a rock star in shoulder pads.
``I think he accepts that,'' offensive lineman Andrew Moses said. ``If you're a quarterback at a university like this you're going to know that's going to be a part of the deal. Terrelle just wants to be the best player he can be for his team. I don't know if he's really nervous about it. He doesn't show it.''
A year ago, Pryor came to campus as the school's most acclaimed quarterback recruit since Art Schlichter in 1979. He watched Todd Boeckman, a first-team All-Big Ten player who led the Buckeyes to the national championship game the season before, direct the offense for three games. But after the Buckeyes were throttled by Southern California 35-3, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel stunned many by benching the fifth-year senior starter and replacing him with Pryor, who had yet to attend his first day of college classes.
The results were mixed. Pryor's numbers were good - 631 yards rushing and six touchdowns, a 61-percent completion rate with 12 TDs and four interceptions, and an 8-1 record as a starter (he was at wide receiver for the first play of the bowl game, even though he played most of the game at quarterback).
le. He failed on a short fourth-down run while trying to lead a fourth-quarter comeback at home against Penn State and then had a mediocre outing against Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. Ohio State lost both games.
He seldom threw the ball farther than 15 yards all season, leading some to question whether he could throw it far and accurately. He often disdained the pass to break out of the pocket on a run.
Tressel said he believes there's a natural progression for a young quarterback, and compares Pryor's maturation with that of the Buckeyes' 2006 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Troy Smith.
``He'll evolve every year from that standpoint, not unlike Troy,'' Tressel said. ``Troy's first year, he was a 600-, 700-yard rusher. Then he was a 500, and his last year around 175 because he got more experienced and he knew more about coverage and knew more about checking down and all those things. Terrelle has a lot more experience than Troy had at the outset, so I'd like to think he'll grow into that mold.''
Pryor often is compared to Vince Young, the tall and lanky ex-Texas quarterback now with the NFL's Tennessee Titans.
Pryor has tired of the comparisons. Young also was considered a run-first quarterback, even though he hit several memorable passes while leading his team to the national championship as a senior with a stirring win over USC.
said. ``I'm not trying to be someone I'm not. (I'm) trying to be better someday. I don't strive to be Vince Young. Because I'm not Vince Young. I won't be Vince Young.''
One reason Pryor is such a focal point this year - for opposing defenses as well as Ohio State fans - is that the Buckeyes are without most of their top weapons from a year ago. Leading rusher Chris ``Beanie'' Wells, top receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline and three starters on the offensive line are gone.
During a preseason scrimmage, with the defensive line bowling over lineman and applying heat on Pryor, it was clear that he was frustrated.
``Yeah, he was,'' defensive tackle Doug Worthington said. ``He's just somebody who wants the best for his offensive line, his running backs and the team as a whole. When we pressured him a few times he got really, really flustered and a couple of times I just told him to calm down and keep playing and whatnot. But he's a competitor. You've got to love it.''
If the fans' massive expectations are weighing on him, he's not showing it.
Asked about being selected as the Big Ten's preseason player of the year, he swatted aside the question like an off-balance, undersized tackler.
``It's one thing to be an All-American and All-Big Ten and the player of the year at the end of the season. Before it, it doesn't mean anything,'' he said. ``It's great to have that before the season, but it means nothing. I didn't do anything yet.''
Whatever he does, a lot of people will be watching.