Monday, July 27, 2009

PRYOR, BUCKEYES SELECTED TOPS AT BIG TEN CONFERENCE MEETINGS

CHICAGO — If the Big Ten meetings in Chicago tell us anything about the 2009 football season, it's the Buckeyes are 'expected' to do big things.

The Buckeyes were selected by the media as the favorite to win the Big Ten championship in 2009, over the likes of Penn State and Michigan State, while sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor was voted the preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

OSU head coach, Jim Tressel, was a little surprised that his team which lost 31 players — including James Laurinaitis, Beanie Wells, Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Robiskie and Marcus Freeman — was placed at the top of the conference. It's the third time in the past four seasons the Buckeyes have been tabbed as the best in the conference.

"From a team standpoint in the preseason rankings, even with 31 guys gone, it's a reminder of the proud history that Ohio State has and the expectations that people have. So yeah, it was a little bit of a surprise (being ranked No. 1 in the conference)." Tressel said.

It wasn't much of a surprise to Illinois head coach Ron Zook.

"I don't think there's any question. You can't argue with the success that Ohio State has had," Zook said. "Coach Tressel and that staff have done a great job recruiting. They've got great players, also ...

"Obviously, we're all chasing Ohio State right now."

Pryor, who led the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record as a starter in 2008, has worked diligently to become a more complete player under center. After his performance during the spring game, the media has taken notice that the talented QB could make some real noise this season in Columbus.

"I think the experiences that Terrelle got last fall were very, very valuable. I think it's tough when you step in and take over for a guy like Todd Boeckman, who was our captain and who had done a lot of good things," Tressel said. "That's a difficult assignment and I thought he handled it well.

"(Pryor) has a real passion to do well. He wants to make sure that he can do all of what the team needs and I thought for a freshman he was pretty careful with the football and grew to learn with every experience that he had. There were some tough experiences along the way. I thought his bowl preparation was very, very good, and then of course we're playing against a very good team in Texas. That was another lesson that he had a chance to be a part of."

Tressel noted that Pryor's hard work this offseason will pay off huge dividends this season and in the future.

"I thought his preparation this spring was excellent," Tressel said. "He's a guy that is passionate about being good and he's very serious about the game. He studies the game extremely hard. He loves to study film with his DVDs and grow as a quarterback.

"But not unlike our entire team, the maturity level in September is going to be a great challenge. I think that will be a real plus for him to face the challenges that we have. We feel real good about him."

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez stated that Pryor — a player he recruited heavily just a season ago — is the focal point of the Buckeyes offense.

"I think (Pryor) is a great player," Rodriguez said. "Terrelle, we recruited him and played against him last year. He's a tremendous athlete. I think a quarterback in any system is going to be a focal point, particularly of your offense, and he's the guy that's certainly the focal point of theirs.

"He can beat you in a lot of different ways."