Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pryor's a long way from a big-time QB

"Athletes” like Terrelle Pryor carry a truckload of expectations with them when they commit to a Division I program.

While their athleticism might go unchallenged, it alone doesn’t ensure they will master the nuances of playing the most demanding position in college football.

After his performance Saturday against Purdue, the athletic Pryor proved two things: No. 1, he isn't improving much; and, No. 2, he isn't ready to quarterback the Buckeyes with the precision and the polish the program needs.

Now, the criticism here isn’t altogether based on the fact the No. 7 Buckeyes lost, 26-18, to an ordinary Purdue team. A week earlier, they won, and the criticism was the same. For in that game, Pryor played as badly as any quarterback could play and still come away with win.

But that performance was against Wisconsin, an unbeaten, though untested team with aspirations of winning a Big Ten title.

Purdue, of course, had no such title hopes tucked away in its locker room. The Boilermakers had been leaking losses, and their 1-5 record suggested they would be fortunate to escape with all hands healthy.

Their record did reflect the quality of the team. What their record didn’t illustrate was how having a capable quarterback like Joey Elliott can keep a game close. He was no Tim Tebow or Sam Bradford; Elliott didn’t have to be. All he needed to be was the best quarterback on the field.

And he was.

That’s the damnable part of it. For Elliott didn’t have the much-hyped credentials of quarterbacks like Pryor, USC freshman Matt Barkley or Notre Dame junior Jimmy Clausen.

Hype can be a player’s undoing. It can lead to inflated expectations that no athlete can live up to, and maybe that’s the problem with Terrelle Pryor: He’s a prisoner of this hype.

In two seasons, he’s developed little. He’s a mechanical passer who locks in on a receiver. He has the touch of a blacksmith, chucking dink-and-dunk passes with helter-skelter accuracy all over the landscape. His pocket presence and awkward footwork resemble a passer who’s in the lineup for his second or third game.

At some point – and that point looks as if it has arrived -- coach Jim Tressel must reevaluate what he has in the underwhelming Pryor, a sophomore. It could be that Tressel entrusted his offense to Pryor too soon. Maybe, just maybe, Pryor’s athleticism works best for Ohio State at a wide receiver and not at quarterback.

For Tressel, a conclusion like the latter might be unthinkable. Dare he bench Pryor? How can he? Ohio State coaches chased Pryor with a dogged determination not used on very many football recruits. It made sense that Tressel go all out to land Pryor, the darling of elite programs from coast to coast.

Could the coach really risk seeing Pryor sign with Michigan?

Two years later, Tressel and the Buckeyes might be better for it had they let Pryor go to Michigan or somewhere else. He has done nothing to show people that he’s capable of greatness. He has shown only mediocrity, which is what frustrates Buckeyes fans.

They longed to see a quarterback who could win championships, a quarterback who could create magic with his legs and with his arms. Buckeyes fans thought they had that magical quarterback in Terrelle Pryor.

They thought wrong.


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