September 23, 2008

Pryor passes his first test

COLUMBUS - While it is way too early to write freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor in for any major national award the first week performance by the No. 1 rated recruit by Rivals.com went off with flying colors. On Tuesday afternoon head coach Jim Tressel announced that Pryor would again get the start as the Buckeyes open up the Big Ten conference season against undefeated Minnesota.

While Pryor's numbers were far from jaw-dropping they were proficient in an offense that has struggled to move the ball through the previous three games and Pryor's 10-16, 139 yard passing performance was crisp and mostly precise and more impressive was the four touchdown passes tossed by the heralded freshman. Add to that 66 yards of rushing by the quarterback who was thought to be a run first, pass second signal caller and it was a complete performance for on-the-job training.

Coaches and teammates alike knew that Pryor had the ability to run but the decision making of Pryor the passer has really set him apart as a special kind of player and as a strong competitor.

"He has always been that type of player," safety Kurt Coleman said. "I always thought coming into preseason or coming into the season I thought he would try and run first but he always stayed in the pocket and always looked down the field for the wide receiver and that's what has impressed me the most. He's always trying to make the wide receivers look good and he has done a good job with that."

The Troy game saw four of Pryor's ten completions go to tight ends, is that a change in philosophy for the Buckeyes or more of a matter of Pryor already starting to grasp the ability to look beyond the first and second options?

"Someone asked over at the Quarterback Club, they said, are you going to throw it more to Brandon Smith and Rory Nicol late in the play like you did last week?" head coach Jim Tressel said. "I said, well, the good news was those were checkdowns, it was no, no, no, checkdown. So he did that two particular times that I thought were excellent."

But not every single checkdown was executed perfectly…

"The third time when he kind of threw it behind his head or whatever to Rory, I wasn't sure about that one," Tressel said. "But he has an awareness of when it's not the way we designed it or they're backing off to check it down so that's a progression that's, again, I think a sense of I'm under control, I know what's going on out there, I'm going to do that. So he's coming along from that standpoint."

The word poise has been mentioned in the same breath with Pryor's name since the moment that the Jeannette (Pa.) set foot on campus but according to teammates it is a well earned label.

"(Pryor definitely has shown) poise from a QB standpoint," offensive lineman Jim Cordle said. "For a freshman QB, he's confident and it shows. I was impressed with the way he threw the ball. Everyone knows he can run, but I was impressed with the way he threw the ball down the field. He's really come along with his poise and confidence in the huddle and the way he runs the huddle."

"He's got a lot of confidence in his feet to move him laterally, but yet still stay in a throwing position," Tressel said. "So many times you see a quarterback start into a running mode and then he can no longer see or deliver as accurately, and he has an ability to stay perpendicular to the line of scrimmage and still keep his eyes up the field."

But for all the accolades that Pryor has earned and will learned the young quarterback has had excellent guidance during his time in Columbus.

"He gets excellent guidance from Joe Daniels and Todd Boeckman on the sideline and all the rest and loves to study the game," Tressel said.

With Pryor replacing a sixth year senior four games into the season is there any chance of a distraction from a team that returns as many starters who have played with Todd for quite some time?

"It could be a distraction if Todd wasn't handling it so (well)," Cordle said. "He's got a great attitude and he's obviously a team player and he wants to see the team do best. He was happy with the way Terrelle played. The way he's continuing to be a leader and be a captain, it takes all the controversy away from it. When you don't see him frustrated, when you don't see him pouting to the coaches, it brings the team together."

But for Pryor the learning process will continue and the curve will be steep as teams start to gather more film on him and start to learn his strengths and weaknesses.

"It's going to get more difficult," Tressel said. "People are going to come up with, 'Okay, here's the things that he's demonstrated he does, now here's what we're going to do to combat that.' So he's going to see something new each week and if he'll slow the game down, he'll understand it."


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