Wednesday, November 10, 2010

COACH PATERNO PRAISES PRYOR; JOE DANIELS BEGAN PA SUCCESS

Joe Paterno photo by the Associated Press
COLUMBUS — It wasn't long ago that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was the most sought after high school football prospect in America. Maybe the most coveted prep player of all time.

Coming out of Jeannette High School in western Pennsylvania, Pryor's every move was under a microscope, every word documented, every decision scrutinized. His recruitment was an absolute media frenzy. I'm surprised Fox News or MSNBC wasn't on hand with 24 hour coverage of Pryor: Decision '08.

He eventually — more than a month after national signing day — announced that he would be playing his collegiate football for the Buckeyes. He chose OSU over his home school, Penn State, and one of the greatest icons in college football history, Joe Paterno.

Terrelle Pryor
(The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
Paterno recalls the Buckeye signal caller's playing days in western PA and how badly he wanted to see him in the blue and white.

"He was a great, great high school player," Paterno said of Pryor. "And not only as a football player, (Pryor) was a heck of a basketball player. We tried everything we could to get him to come to Penn State."

Pryor, now in his third season as Ohio State's starting quarterback, will lead his ninth-ranked Buckeyes against Paterno's Nittany Lions on Saturday in Columbus. Pryor is 1-1 against Paterno in two starts.

Paterno admits that Pryor is a totally different player now than he was in high school, or even the past two seasons. He also stated that he still pulls for the Buckeye passer.

"He's older. He's more mature. He's more polished," Paterno said of Pryor. "And so all those little things that you would expect an athlete as good as he is and as conscientious as he is, you'd expect him to get better and that's what Pryor's done. He's a good kid. He really handles himself well.

"He's all business. He's not out there trying to out-do anybody. He's just out there trying to get his football team to win. He's the kind of guy a coach likes to see have success."

Paterno went onto to chuckle, "I don't want him to have too much (success) this week, though."

WHY SO MUCH SUCCESS RECRUITING IN PENNSYLVANIA? ... The Buckeyes certainly have their fair share of players from the great football state of Pennsylvania.

Not only is Pryor from Pennsylvania, but both Corey Browns, tailback Jordan Hall, linebacker Dorian Bell, defensive back Chad Hagen, linebacker Andrew Sweat, offensive tackle Andrew Miller and defensive lineman Evan Blankenship are all natives of the Keystone State.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel attributed the Buckeyes' success recruiting Pennsylvania to former assistant coach and Pittsburgh native, Joe Daniels.

"I think it all started with Joe Daniels in 2001," Tressel said. "Joe went there beginning in '01 and we probably went, I don't know, three or four years with maybe getting one guy. I think maybe Rory Nicol and Kyle Mitchum might have been the first two. It took us some years, but you know Joe, he just kept plugging and plugging and plugging, and then when he became ill, (co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach) Luke Fickell took over and followed up on all the groundwork that Joe had. Joe was from Pittsburgh, so we had a good relationship with the coaches from there.

"I think the fact that it's so close, you know, you get on Route 70 and you're here as fast as you are some other places, and so it's just a natural proximity. But I have to say that it starts with Joe."