December 28, 2009

Bair: Make Pryor Throw

LOS ANGELES - Every Oregon defensive player made available to the media Monday morning commented about Ohio State sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor's great athleticism.

The Ducks have seen him on film and understand that Pryor is one of the more dynamic players on Ohio State's offense, and they weren't afraid to make their feelings toward him known.

"He is a great athlete. He is 6-foot-6, 235 and is one of the fastest guys on the team," said Oregon cornerback Spencer Paysinger. "He touches the ball on every play and he is an explosive player and a good passer. By having the ball in his hands, he is a threat.

"He is shifty and loves to run," Paysinger added. "The biggest challenge will be trying to tackle him. He is one of the better athletes that we have faced this year."

Though the statements seem par for the course when it comes to described Pryor's attributes, the Oregon players weren't apprehensive when it came time to make all the observations about the sophomore's game.

Sure, Pryor has been a big weapon when it comes to moving the ball with his legs, but some players on the Ducks defense feel if they can keep Ohio State in passing situations that it would be hard for Pryor to beat them through the air.

When asked if Pryor's arm was something that scares defensive tackle Brandon Bair, he simply replied, "No."

"His legs are his weapon right now, in my opinion," Bair said. "He is going to throw a good football. He is a quarterback so obviously he can through the ball, but what we have to be nervous about is his running game."

It is hard for that statement to be argued with given the Buckeyes haven't necessarily set the world on fire through the air.

The Buckeyes rushed for at least 225 yards in each of their final five games of the season, but the damage done by Pryor through the air was rather minimal during that stretch despite the fact Ohio State won every one of them.

"They are going to try and run the ball a lot and our goal as a defense and especially as a defensive lineman, is to stop the run," Bair said. "Then it's got to go to the air, and as we've seen, their track record with that is it's going to be tough for them to beat us in the air."

The Buckeyes, however, would prefer to run the ball effectively and win that battle first, which was conveyed by head coach Jim Tressel at Ohio State's Rose Bowl media day in Columbus before the team departed out West.

Because the Buckeyes were so successful on the ground down the stretch of the schedule, Tressel will be the first to point to the team's 5-0 record in its final five games and its outright Big Ten title/Rose Bowl berth as the result of a great rushing attack.

When looking at what Oregon does offensively, Tressel said he would like to control the football and clock while executing a solid rushing effort.

"In the back half of the year, we did a much better job taking care of the football and a much better job running the football," Tressel said in Columbus. "Therefore, we did a much better job winning."

Pryor said Monday that he just hopes to lead the team in whatever Tressel calls after reporters asked if the sophomore was frustrated at the lack of passing plays called.

But heading into the game, Oregon's defensive plan is much like Ohio State's: stop the run.

"Pryor is a great player with impressive size and speed," Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. "Even if you're successful in limiting his opportunities, he can really just you with his feet when plays break down. They have a great ground game, so we have to try an stop them there."

But according to Bair, he is confident Oregon will be successful if they force Pryor to throw.

"Pryor is their biggest threat on offense," Bair said. "If we can make him throw the ball instead of running, we feel pretty good about our chances."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for He can be reached at [email protected].

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