Tuesday, January 5, 2010

PRYOR HAS TURNED THE CORNER

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, left, and MVP Terrelle Pryor celebrate after winning the Rose Bowl against Oregon last Friday in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

PASADENA, Calif. — Following Ohio State's 26-17 win over Oregon in last Friday's Rose Bowl Game in California, Buckeyes sophomore quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, couldn't hold back his emotions.

As the team was celebrating their first bowl win in four seasons — by jumping around and singing at midfield — Pryor just leaned over, put his hands on his knees and began to weep.

It was the culmination of hard work and a desire to be great — after such a trying season — that brought the Buckeyes signal caller to tears.

"I was a little light-headed," Pryor laughed on the field during the celebration. "I'm glad they just stuck with me. There are more wins to come, definitely.

"We're just going to keep on getting better as an organization, as a program, and try to keep fighting and carry this on to next year."

Pryor, who has had his ups and downs during his sophomore campaign, showed the nation that he can be a complete quarterback, not just a running back under center, which he has been labeled during his first two seasons at Ohio State.

"I knew what I could do ... " Pryor said after finishing the game 23-of-37 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns. "I thought I could have a game like this anytime.

"I mean, I've gotten a lot better in this bowl practice, a lot better. Just in and out, smart, and just meeting with Coach Tressel all the time. Staying in the film room, studying the film a lot more. It helps a lot."

The film the seventh-ranked Ducks had on Pryor didn't reveal anything like what they witnessed on the field.

"The plan was to make him throw the ball," Oregon defensive end Kenny Rowe said of Pryor. "But when he threw it that good, well, that plan didn't go so well."

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly uttered the same sentiments as his star defensive end.

"(The passing) was surprising to us," Kelly said. "We felt watching their last couple of games where they didn't throw it very much and were rather conservative, they came in and opened it up. Obviously, Terrelle beat us."

Kelly, who recruited Pryor heavily coming out of high school in Pennsylvania, stated that he has become even more impressive than what he saw out of him just three years ago.

"When I saw him in high school, he was a man amongst boys," Kelly said of Pryor. "And at times tonight, he looked like a man amongst boys. He's bigger, stronger and more physical. He looks like a defensive end.

"He's an impressive player when you see him up close. He certainly beat us on how he threw the ball."

And, how well he continues to throw the ball will determine how far the Buckeyes go in 2010.

If Pryor can have the same sort of progression that former Texas quarterback Vince Young had — after using a stellar performance in the Rose Bowl during his sophomore season to lead the Longhorns to an undefeated national championship the next year as a junior — then great things could be on the horizon for the Buckeyes.

"We have ongoing discussions as to how we're progressing," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "We felt like that this was a pivotal game because it marked the end of the first half of his career and that we felt like we needed to progress a little bit more. I think he did.

"We have some very definitive goals as to how good we would like to be and how good he would like to be at his craft.

"I thought tonight was a good step."

Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward believes that Pryor has turned the corner.

"He matured a lot this season," Heyward said of Pryor. "He took his lumps this season, but he just stepped forward and kept playing. He wanted to show that he could deliver for this team.

"And he went out there and delivered in a big way. He's a great player, who's just going to get better and better."

The Buckeyes could possibly have 16 returning starters coming into next season — pending those players who could choose to enter the NFL draft. If Pryor can continue to grow as much next season as he did this season, and the season before, the Buckeyes could be in store for another BCS championship run.

Pryor said that he believes that he can help lead the Buckeyes to the mountain top. But he stated that he's only as good as the players around him.

"You know, really for myself it's probably the sky is the limit," Pryor said. "But, it's not really about me. I'm just thankful for the teammates that I have.

"Without my teammates, I mean, I can't do anything."

But, with them, the Buckeyes could have a crystal football in the very near future.

Now that would surely bring tears to Pryor's eyes.