Bad news for Big Ten, USC....Pryor's all growed up now...
Teammates like what they're seeing in Terrelle Pryor's maturation
Sunday, August 2, 2009 3:43 AM
By Ken Gordon
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
According to teammates and opposing players, last year Terrelle Pryor was an indecisive, run-first quarterback who didn't know the offense very well and took too many sacks.
Considering that, it's amazing the Ohio State quarterback had success -- going 8-2 as a starter, leading the Big Ten in pass efficiency and being named the conference's freshman of the year.
Imagine what Pryor might do this fall.
From watching him in spring practice -- when he showed significant improvement in the passing game -- and from listening to those around him, the sophomore appears poised to take a big leap forward.
"He's making huge improvements," tight end Jake Ballard said, "and I know his expectations for himself are just as high. And that's what makes Terrelle such a good player -- he always wants to get better. He's going to be a big part of our team success this year."
The easy comparison would be to look at the improvement former quarterback Troy Smith made between 2004 and 2005.
In 2004, Smith took over in midstream, like Pryor, and often made up for his lack of experience by taking off running. In 2005, Smith was much more in command of the system and showcased a devastating blend of passing and running.
It's clear that the OSU coaching staff was protecting Pryor last season by limiting the game plan and playing conservatively. He averaged only 15 pass attempts in his 10 starts.
"We were basically asking him not to turn the ball over, to be conservative with the ball and just help guide the team down the field," safety Kurt Coleman said.
There's a reason for that. Although Pryor has a strong arm and was accurate (60.6 percent passing), he often held the ball too long. That's a common symptom of inexperience, mainly of not reading defenses quickly.
When in doubt, he ran. That's preferable to throwing an interception, obviously (he only threw four), but it made the offense one-dimensional.
"We knew he was talented, (that) he had made some great throws, but we knew it was going to be him trying to run more, we knew we had to stop that first," Penn State linebacker Sean Lee said. "Now this year, we'll see. Is it going to be just as tough to stop the pass as it was the run?"
Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones said he thought Pryor was an indecisive passer last year.
"If somebody wasn't open, he was going to try and run it," Jones said, "but by the time he decided to run, it was a sack."
For a mobile quarterback, Pryor did get sacked a lot -- 21 times. Compare that to Todd Boeckman, a pure pocket passer, who was sacked 18 times in 2007 while dropping back much more often.
Coleman said he has noticed great improvement in Pryor's knowledge of the system.
"He's distributing the ball a lot more," Coleman said. "Before, he would have one read. Now he sees a read, (and if) he sees a different coverage, he's going to go (to his second and third read). He's done a great job."
The other, more intangible mark of progress is in Pryor's attitude. Listening to teammates, it sounds as if he came in last year with a bit too much bravado.
Defensive tackle Doug Worthington has noticed a difference this year.
"In the huddle, he's telling people when they're wrong; he's disciplining when need be," Worthington said. "You see the progress that he had from being -- I'm not saying a knucklehead -- but being a freshman and going out there and having fun and giggling and not taking things seriously too much.
"It's great just seeing the kid go out there and become a man."
The potential is obvious. It's why Pryor was named preseason Big Ten offensive player of the year and why his name is on most lists of Heisman Trophy candidates.
What encourages coach Jim Tressel the most is Pryor's eagerness to transfer potential into results.
"The greatest thing about T.P. is he is one of the best listeners I've ever been around," Tressel said. "He is glued in on, 'What is it that I can find out to be better?' He wants that. He wants to be coached hard; he wants to have tremendously high expectations.
"And when you're willing to be like that -- and then, by the way, you happen to be pretty talented -- he's going to have a chance, I think, to be very, very good."
BONUS: Tressel's notes
Here are three areas where Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor needs to improve this year, according to coach Jim Tressel:
Distribute: Comfort and knowledge of the offense will lead to Pryor spreading the ball around better, with an emphasis on checking down to the outlet receiver when necessary.
Go deep: It's not how often, it's how effective. Tressel says Pryor must get better at letting the ball go on time when throwing downfield.
Focus: Pryor is emotional and also hard on himself. Tressel says he must stay mentally in the moment, which means letting the last play go and always looking forward.