Monday, August 2, 2010

BUCKEYES, PRYOR HAVE SOME HUGE TARGETS ON THEIR BACKS IN 2010

(Photo of Terrelle Pryor by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

CHICAGO — During the 2010 Big Ten Media Days in Chicago on Monday, Ohio State was once again voted as the favorite to win the conference title, the second straight year the Buckeyes have held the top billing.

Not only is Ohio State rated No. 1 in the Big Ten, but they're looking to win their sixth straight conference title in 2010. Add in the fact that the Buckeyes are coming off a BCS bowl win and staring at a possible top two ranking nationally, that target on Ohio State's back is about the size of Glendale, Arizona.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said on Monday that the Buckeyes are used to being the team in everyone's crosshairs.

"I think the reality that we've had for years and years and years at Ohio State is that we normally have a target," Tressel said. "I think once you get started you don't really know, you're just trying to get better and we try to focus to become as good as we can be and I think we're a very capable team.

"I think we should be a team that's being targeted and I know we will be a team that's being targeted. We'll always get everyone's best shot. And with that in mind we better make sure our best shot is ready each Saturday. That's just part of the deal."

Another reason there are such high expectations for the Buckeyes this season — and an even larger target on their back — is the growth of junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who was voted by the media as the Big Ten preseason offensive player of the year for the second straight time.

Pryor's journey at Ohio State has been well documented. Rated as the top player in the country coming out of Jeannette (PA) High School in 2008, Pryor was thrown into action quickly as a freshman. Although he finished the season 8-1 as a starter, many knew that Pryor hadn't come close to scratching the surface of his amazing talents.

Last season, Pryor definitely had some growing pains trying to evolve into a more polished passer. He struggled during the middle part of the season, giving Tressel very little confidence passing the football down the stretch. The Buckeyes focused more on pounding the football and winning the games on the ground.

Pryor still managed to lead the Buckeyes to a 10-2 regular season record, a fifth straight Big Ten title and a berth in the Rose Bowl against Oregon.

That was the game Pryor put it all together. He was the player every Buckeye fan and analyst had been waiting on. He was efficient with his passes and deadly with his feet, finishing the game with 338 total yards (266 pass, 72 rush) and two touchdown passes, en route to a 26-17 win and the game's most valuable player award.

Everyone witnessed what Pryor was capable of, and now the pressure is on for the unquestioned leader of this year's Buckeyes.

"Terrelle has had an interesting career in that his freshman year he was kind of thrust in there a little bit more than any of us had planned, himself included," Tressel said of Pryor. "And he was thrust in with a veteran team and trying to find his way, his identity, his acceptance if you will. I thought by the end of that year he really progressed.

"Then his sophomore year, all of a sudden it's a brand new huddle. And he was supposedly the veteran, and supposedly the guy that was going to the lead that group. I thought he had to figure out the difference between what he had experienced before and what he was experiencing in his sophomore year."

Tressel said that Pryor finally figured out who he was during bowl practice last December.

"I thought he learned a great deal throughout the regular season and then I think it started to really crystallize in his mind during bowl practice," Tressel said. "I thought he was really able to focus in on what he needed to do better and he knew his place amongst the group and all that.

"And so I thought he performed fairly well in the bowl game and then I thought he did the same thing this spring. He really focused on becoming the best he could be and now he has a new team that he's without question looked to for leadership.

"I really feel good about where he is right now. He's always thinking about football. I think he's anxious to get this season underway."

The Buckeyes begin fall practice this weekend. Their first game is Thursday, September 2 against Marshall at Ohio Stadium.

OTHER BIG TEN NEWS — The Big Ten only announces the top three vote getters for the conference favorites. Iowa, which finished the 2009 season 11-2, including a win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, was voted to finish second behind Ohio State. Iowa returns 14 starters, including quarterback Ricky Stanzi and defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

Wisconsin was picked to finish third. The Badgers finished the 2009 season with a 10-3 record and, including a victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Champs Sports Bowl. Wisconsin returns 16 players this season, including the 2009 offensive player of the year in running back John Clay.

Michigan State senior linebacker Greg Jones was voted by the media as the Big Ten preseason defensive player of the year, also for the second straight season. Jones totaled 154 tackles and nine sacks in 2009 for the Mark Dantonio-led Spartans.

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