Thursday, August 27, 2009

PREVIEW: 'NO-NAME' BUCKEYES MAY HAVE THE BIGGEST NAME OF ALL

Last January in the Fiesta Bowl, the Ohio State Buckeyes were just 16 seconds away from getting the BCS monkey off their back and accomplishing what many think they have become incapable of doing — winning a 'big' game.


Well, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy's crossing route to Quan Cosby dashed the Buckeyes hopes of winning a 'big' game and getting over the BCS bowl hump. That 26-yard Texas hook up successfully transformed the "monkey" into a 10,000-pound gorilla.


Entering the 2009 season, the expectations are again very high in Columbus. But as for the rest of the country, the Buckeyes are considered non-contenders, "overrated" — a punching bag for the nation's elite.


They are looked at as having no big names — other than quarterback Terrelle Pryor — and not enough talent and speed to contend with the big boys.


Simply said — the Buckeyes just aren't sexy enough for the national pundits.


Perhaps the underdog role is just what the doctor ordered for the Buckeyes this season. I mean, it did work wonders for the team in the 2003 National Championship Game (Fiesta Bowl), when they upset the heavily favored Miami Hurricanes, arguably the greatest college football team ever.


OSU defensive end Thaddeus Gibson loves the underdog, no-name role which has been bestowed upon his team this season.


"Like coach (Jim Tressel) said, 'this year we're going out there with no names,'" Gibson said. "You can call us a no-name team if you want to, we love it. We love the fact that they don't think we have anybody on this team. It's cool. Once the season's over they'll know who we are."


Of course, not all of the players on the team are "no-names."


Pryor, who will be going into his sophomore season, has as big a name as any player in the country. The 6-6, 240-pound quarterback will be looked at as the leader of the team — the catalyst in the Buckeyes' pursuit to kill the "10,000-pound gorilla."


Last season as a true freshman, Pryor led the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record as the team's starting quarterback and displayed those flashes of brilliance that made him perhaps the most highly touted prep prospect of all-time.


However, there were also signs that he was far from living up to the hype and needed to work on his quarterbacking skills, most notably his poor passing mechanics and inability to read defenses.


The star player from Jeannette, Pennsylvania knew that he would need to work diligently on these things during the off-season.


"It just disgusts me," Pryor said about watching last season's film of himself. "I can't believe I didn't know that, but now I do. If I would have known these things I know now, it would have been so much easier. Once you know what the defense is doing, it's a whole different ball game. And that's how I look at it right now."


Pryor's mechanics this summer look light years ahead of where he was last season. However, he understands that it takes more than one off-season to perfect his skills. In fact, he knows that perfection is unattainable.


"I always try hard to get better after each game and I think I've done a good job (this offseason) getting better as a quarterback," Pryor said. "But, I hope I don't let everybody down because I'm not going to be perfect. No one's perfect.


"I'm still working like I'm a fourth string quarterback. Just to make sure I can keep my position. I don't want that to happen to me. I'm working as hard as I possibly can and competing as hard as I can. All of us are."


Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel stated that Pryor has grown tremendously since last season.


"Experience is invaluable. Terrelle is so much more comfortable (this season). More comfortable with his surroundings, more comfortable with the offense, more comfortable with his teammates, more comfortable with the strength coaches and more comfortable with the academic rigors," Tressel said. "He's just more comfortable with knowing that he can excel and achieve. It won't be without its bumps and so forth. He's a true sophomore, but you can really see from Day One to whatever number day it is now, his great growth."


Although it's a lot to ask from a sophomore, Pryor's leadership skills will be more critical to the Buckeyes success this season than his big arm or 4.3 speed.


The Big Ten Preseason Offensive Player of the Year knows and accepts the importance of his leadership.


"People always talk about the quarterback being the leader, whether you're a freshman or a senior. I've always tried to be a leader," Pryor said. "These guys right here are my brothers, I'd die for them. There's nothing like being a team, being with these type of players, I sweat with them, I bleed with them."

Be sure to read the complete Buckeye Times 2009 Preview in Thursday's edition of The Bryan Times.