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January 4, 2011

Pryor hopes for final Newton comparison

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The resemblance is striking.

From their similarity in height, the way they both carry themselves on the field, to even the number both wear across their chests, the comparisons between Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Auburn signal caller Cameron Newton are vast.

"They are actually about the same size," Arkansas defensive end Damario Ambrose said. "Cam might be a little bit bigger, but they are basically like the same type of quarterback with the same type of arm. They are kind of like clones. It's kind of weird."

For Pryor, the comparisons have been hard to escape. At times, Pryor has seemed annoyed at the repeated questions regarding his game in comparison to Newton's.

It may not be the worst thing for Pryor, however, to want to continue the trend of impeccable similarity for at least one more game.

Newton was this year's Heisman Trophy winner and it was games like Auburn's win over Arkansas that allowed Newton to storm onto the college football scene and become universally known as one of the game's most dangerous weapons.

Against Arkansas - Ohio State's opponent for tonight's Sugar Bowl - Newton displayed perhaps one of the most impressive single offensive performances of this year's college football season.

Auburn put up 65 points on Arkansas' defense when the Tigers played the Razorbacks Oct. 16, largely due to Newton's 140 yards through the air off 10-of-14 passing, 188 yards rushing, and four total touchdowns.

"They are both big, athletic, dual-threat quarterbacks," Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette said. They are both very good players and the catalysts for their offenses. Obviously, they are two different players on two different teams. They run different schemes, so we have to keep them separate."

Statistically, Newton hard a far superior year to Pryor's. En route to winning the Heisman, Newton accounted for 19 more total touchdowns than Pryor this season.

Newton, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 250 pounds, rushed for just over 1,400 yards and 20 touchdowns and passed for 28 more scores against just six interceptions.

The way Newton takes over games is remarkable. So remarkable, in fact, that Arkansas defensive end Tenarius Wright isn't quite sure he's next in line to put Pryor in the same category as the Heisman Trophy recipient.

"They run two different styles offense," Wright said. "Cam Newton is one type of player that we've seen, all during the season, take over a game. Terrelle Pryor, I'm not saying that he couldn't do it, but he hasn't done it like Cam Newton."

Pryor is just one year removed from leading Ohio State to a Rose Bowl win over Oregon, so the Buckeye coaching staff is quite sure what the quarterback is capable of. And this season Pryor has even more motivation to want to close out the season with a big performance.

The junior was left off both all-Big Ten teams at quarterback a year after being named the MVP of the Rose Bowl and he is coming off the announcement of a five-game suspension he'll be facing next year for selling Ohio State memorabilia items given to him by the university in the form of awards.

Though the suspension is pending appeal, the prospect of missing a large portion of Ohio State's season next year is one that has Pryor hoping he can make this game count. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel knows just how motivated his quarterback is.

"He's a highly competitive guy," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "He looks like he's pressing a lot. He is. He's pressing to do the best he possibly can.

"My sense is that he isn't sitting around consciously saying, 'I'm not going to play for a while so this [performance] has to be out of this world,'" Tressel continued. "And if he is, I suppose we'll be able to tell that in his play and we can address that."

Pryor deflected questions as recent as this week when he was asked to compare himself to Newton, but Arkansas has attacked the preparation for the game by paying close attention to what Newton did to them.

"I think more than anything else against Newton, you have to know how to tackle a big man," Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. "It's not going to take one man to bring him down, so you're going to have to get several hats to this guy.

"When you're dealing with skill out there at that position, you have to make sure you keep them contained, so you have to have an edge and you have to have a fill and you have to have a chase, OK, and we're trying to get several hats to this guy all the time."

It was during bowl preparation last season where Pryor seemed to make his biggest strides at Ohio State. Arkansas' defense is hoping they can stop the Newton comparisons at the door of the Super Dome Tuesday evening.

"We have been practicing against some of the plays that Auburn ran. Of course, our coaches have emphasized it," Ambrose said. "Potentially, this could be one of Terrelle Pryor's last games [at Ohio State], so he might run the ball a little more this game.

"You never know. We have been preparing by going against the offense that Auburn ran and different things. We are prepared for it."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.



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