Monday, October 4, 2010

A COUPLE OBSERVATIONS FROM SATURDAY'S WIN AT ILLINOIS

Photo of Terrelle Pryor
by The Associated Press
COLUMBUS — Perhaps the biggest thing I took away following Ohio State's 24-13 victory over Illinois on Saturday is that the Buckeyes are in deep trouble if Terrelle Pryor would miss an extended period of time due to injury.

When Pryor went down in the third quarter with a strained left quad muscle, you could see the air being let out of every single offensive player on the team. They were absolutely demoralized.

Moments later, when the Buckeyes signal caller came running out of the locker room and back onto the field, it was apparent that the team had more of a bounce in their step — most notably tailback Dan "Boom" Herron, who played inspired football following Pryor's return, ripping through the Illini defense for nearly 100 yards on 19 carries in the final two quarters.

Of course, Herron was able to run at will because the Illini were still concerned with the dangerous Pryor, who ran all over them in the first half.

It is no secret that Pryor is the leader of the team, and it's only natural for the overall attitude to fluctuate when he is in trouble, or rises up to a challenge. But it was also quite apparent that the team had no faith at all in backup quarterback Joe Bauserman.

The Illini defense just wasn't scared of Bauserman at all, and they put more people in the box daring him to throw it. He did, and it was picked.

Nothing against Bauserman, but when he is inserted into the offense,  everything — and I mean, everything — changes. The formations change, the scheme's are predictable and the defense knows that he and Pryor's abilities are as different as night and day. Bauserman just can't do the things Pryor can, not even close.

All during the preseason, third string quarterback Kenny Guiton has impressed, and even though the redshirt freshman doesn't have the complete game that Pryor has just yet, he does have enough of his attributes to prevent a complete scheme change.

The fact is, Guiton needs to get the backup reps in practice, he needs to be the guy that fills in for Pryor, and the coaching staff needs to see that. It was displayed during the limited time that Pryor was unavailable Saturday that the offense will not be successful in the Big Ten with Bauserman at the controls. Not saying that Guiton would lead them to the promised land, but the probability of winning games certainly increases.

Luckily for the Buckeyes, they will not be without their star QB this weekend against Indiana.

"I'll be back," Pryor proclaimed after Saturday's win. "You saw I came back for this game."

Tressel expects the same.

"I'm not a doctor and I know it's only Saturday," Tressel said. "But I expect Terrelle to be ready to rock and roll."

Guiton should be ready, as well.

BRYANT IS A PLAYER ... If you read any of my fall camp notes, I stated numerous times that true freshman defensive back Christian Bryant stood out to me. He constantly makes plays, is always around the football, and has no fear putting his nose in traffic to make a stop.

He may only be 5-foot-9, 180 pounds —soaking wet — but he'll definitely lay the hammer down if he gets an opportunity.

During Saturday's game at Illinois, the freshman from Cleveland was thrust into action early in the game after senior nickelback/star Tyler Moeller left with a pectoral injury. Bryant made the most of his opportunity, recording five tackles in the win and making his athletic and tenacious presence felt.

Tressel knew that he could trust Bryant to fill in for Moeller at the star spot.

"It seemed like every play Jermale (Hines) was telling him where to line up," Tressel chuckled. "I'm sure he was nervous. But he's a football player. He's been our number two nickel guy all along and we could have rearranged things and brought Jermale up to the nickel and put someone else on the back half. But our coaches felt that was the right mix to get Christian in there.

"We'll see on the film how he graded but he played the way we wanted."

Look for Bryant to get more and more reps, especially with Moeller possibly done for the season.