Monday, August 16, 2010

PRYOR'S IMPROVEMENT CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO HIS MATURITY

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

COLUMBUS — It has never been a secret that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor is an extremely gifted athlete.

He's big (6-6, 235), he's fast, he's strong and he has a cannon for an arm. It's quite apparent that God has bestowed some serious gifts upon the young man from Jeannette, Pennsylvania.

But now, Pryor is beginning to display some other attributes — divine ones if you will — like leadership, maturity, toughness and yes, the ability to play the quarterback position.

Thus far during fall camp, Pryor looks like a totally different player. Sure, he is still as athletically blessed as ever, but instead of looking like a great athlete who happens to play quarterback, he now appears like a quarterback who happens to be a great athlete.

Pryor has worked quite diligently trying to become a complete quarterback, and now he is finally beginning to reap the rewards.

"This is the first time I can stand here and say that," Pryor said, when asked if he feels like a complete quarterback. "I can actually just watch film and say 'man, I've really grown.'

"I've matured, I go through the reads right, I hit my check downs now, I take the right steps in the handoffs, everything is done well. I feel mature. I worked a lot this off-season with Eric Lichter, the head strength coach. I've done a lot of drills and stuff, a lot of footwork drills. I've changed my delivery a little bit, too."

Just watching him in action during fall camp, I can see that his footwork is solid, his release is much quicker and more natural looking. His passes are spinning crisply, his decision making is superb. Pryor's hard work is definitely paying off.

During the kick scrimmage on Saturday at Ohio Stadium, Pryor looked sensational. He hit on nearly every pass he threw, including a 75-yard touchdown strike to senior receiver Taurian Washington. He has the presence in the pocket and the demand in the huddle of a 10-yard NFL veteran.

Pryor said his progress can be attributed to his growing maturity.

(left, Pryor by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

"Just being around Coach (Jim) Tressel, I mean, he's the greatest example for young men," Pryor said. "My position coach and being around guys like DeVier Posey, we've changed, we're grown. I feel like I'm way more mature.

"I had my fun days coming in as a freshman, we're all human beings, we all make mistakes. You have your fun and you enjoy your first time. But right now I go about it as business. Every time I'm in the film room I'm sitting up. As lame as it sounds I'm not leaning over or sitting back in my chair, I'm standing up, answering questions when coaches ask."

His leadership abilities have improved dramatically, as well. Again, Pryor said that great leadership comes with maturity.

"It started with me being around the guys a lot more," Pryor said. "Just loving being around the guys, spending time with them, going to their houses, going to eat with them. Off the field I have to make sure everybody is doing everything right, and make sure I'm doing everything right. I can't be a leader if I'm doing other things than what I preach.

"It starts off the field and then when you get on the field, all of the guys will just come around you."

Pryor hasn't just won over his team by being an example off the field, he's also been an inspiration on it. Many didn't realize how hurt Pryor was during the end of the 2009 season after injuring his knee during the New Mexico State game in week nine.

He played through some extreme pain down the stretch, and even though he was limited, he helped lead the Buckeyes to big wins over Penn State, Iowa and Michigan, before capping off the season with an MVP performance in the Buckeyes Rose Bowl victory over Oregon.

Pryor said that he wasn't going to quit on his team, no matter how bad the pain really was.

"There was nothing that was going to hold me back, I was going to be in the game regardless," Pryor said. "It hurt pretty good and it was sore, there were some times where I had to take some pills and stuff like that just to take the pain away. I was here for the seniors. I was trying to get wins."

He said that the injury was more severe than many of us knew.

"When I injured my knee earlier against New Mexico State, there was a lot of pain," Pryor said. "I had a lot of pain and I couldn't run very much. There were a couple games where I couldn't run because every time I'd cut it felt like my leg would just give. It pretty much held me back from escaping the pocket. I couldn't make the throws off the run and stuff like that."

Pryor understands that there are a lot of expectations for the team this season, and the troops will be relying on him heavily to lead the way.

"I have to be on my top game all of the time," Pryor said. "I have to take it and not always leave it to the defense because the defense has had to win games for us. It's time for me to step up.

"Offensively, we all have to step up as a group and handle that stuff so we don't put all of the pressure on our defense."

As for the expectations of being ranked No. 2 in the preseason polls?

"We could go about it a couple of ways," Pryor said about the high ranking. "We could go into the season thinking we're going to run all over everybody and take it to Marshall and guys like that. Or we can go into it slowly, taking it one day at a time. Starting tonight by getting our rest, then getting up tomorrow, eating well, going to watch film, everybody resting up, everybody paying attention, getting better, going to practice. And then after that, we do the same thing over and over.

"(With the first option) we could just let it all go to our heads and lose our one or two games like we've been doing. I would rather go with the second option I gave you."

Yes, the second option is the only way.

It's the mature way.

— To discuss this story or any others involving Ohio State football, click here.