The Maturation of Terrelle Pryor

OSU Football(el Kaiser here. This post is the first of MotSaG’s newest contributor, Johnny Utah (aka Kade from the comments). Have a read and welcome Johnny as our newest member.)

Terrelle Pryor is not a wide receiver, a strong safety or a defensive end. Terrelle Pryor is a quarterback. He will remain a quarterback until his career at THE Ohio State University is finished. Pryor may end up playing another position at the next level like players before him. He can worry about that after he is handed his 4th pair of gold pants.

Pryor is the victim of out of this world expectations brought on by a fan base that is known for being not only the best fans in the country, but often times the worst fans in the country. On many recruiting lists, he was the #1 recruit in the nation after putting up staggering numbers in high school and leading his team to back to back State Championship games. He was a man among boys. He was Superman — at least in the eyes of many Buckeye fans.

After an impressive freshman year, Pryor’s sophomore season has been a very inconsistent one. With a sharp increase in turnovers from his freshman year, Pryor’s detractors have included everyone from skeptical Ohio State fans, to the ever so dreamy [I know, right? – ed] Kirk Herbstreit to just about every other annoying talking head in college football.

Pryor, like every other player in college football (Tim Tebow included) certainly has things that he needs to improve on:

  • Pryor needs to look off receivers, as he continually locks onto them. Watching him throughout the year, he locks onto a single receiver, will pat the ball multiple times and fire away. For obvious reasons, this can be disastrous. Pryor seems to easily fall in love with the prettiest girl at the dance — in this case, Posey. Pryor needs to be a Casanova and spread the love around or at least make it look like he is going to spread the love.
  • Throw the ball away. Yes, when you are pressured it’s okay to put away the red cape, remove the “S” on your chest and simply throw the magic bean away.
  • See open receiver – throw ball. He seems to wait far too long to throw the ball to open receivers. A receiver will not get more open than when he breaks his route. When a receiver creates separation, the ball needs to be thrown on time because the covering defender will only close that separation gap and be able to make a play on the ball. This has happened far too often. It has cost Pryor interceptions, completions and big plays. Just read and react — too much thinking is a bad thing sometimes.
  • Poise during pressure. In situations when Pryor is pressured, his mechanics completely break down and he rarely delivers an accurate ball. He needs to stand in the pocket and make the throw. Pryor’s throwing mechanics are already inconsistent.
  • This may seem like a small thing, but he needs to carry out his fakes each and every time. On the zone read option, after handing off, he needs to continue like he has the ball. This will help keep the backside DE/OLB from tackling OSU’s RB and will also open him up for big plays down the road.
  • When he runs, he needs to run more north/south. Hit the running lanes quicker and harder. This is something that he could learn from Tim Tebow. He is bigger, stronger and much faster than Tebow. If Pryor did this he would be lethal.
  • Most importantly, Pryor needs to control his emotions and his attitude during games and play football.

We all know that Pryor can do many things to improve his game and be more consistent. With that said, Pryor is often times not helped by other factors. The game of football is of course the ultimate team game.

First and foremost, Pryor struggles the most when the offensive line breaks down. The unfortunate thing for Pryor is that this offensive line is very young and like Pryor, still learning. It’s very difficult for any QB to be effective when running for their life. The Purdue game is a great example of that. Pryor had defenders in his face on a consistent basis and it cost OSU. Many blamed the Purdue loss solely on Pryor, but if you look deeper, the offensive line was very much to blame.

Very much related to the issues on the offensive line is the fact that OSU’s running game is not nearly as productive as it was last year. Pryor excelled last year using play-action passing off a super star running back and veteran offensive line. I’m not saying last years offensive line was award winning, but it was clearly better than this year’s model. This year’s line was pushed around by Navy for God’s sake! When teams aren’t afraid of the running game, play-action doesn’t work. It makes it more difficult to create separation as a wideout and only adds LBs and secondary to defend the pass.

Youth on the offense — it’s staggering when you look at the offensive depth chart and see just how many underclassmen are starting for the Buckeyes. (See table at the right)

OSU Offense
Position Player Year
QB Terrelle Pryor Sophomore
HB Jordan Hall Freshman
FB Zach Boren Freshman
OT Mike Adams Sophomore
OG Justin Boren Junior
C Michael Brewster Sophomore
OG Bryan Browning Junior
OT JB Shugarts Sophomore
WR DeVier Posey Sophomore
WR Dane Sanzenbacher Junior
TE Jake Ballard Senior

7 of the 11 starters on offense are either freshmen or sophomores. Jordan Hall may be starting for a concussed Brandon Saine this week vs. mighty New Mexico State. 3 of 5 linemen are sophomores and there is 1 – count ’em – 1 senior starter on offense: Jake Ballard. The entire offense is a work in progress, not just Terrelle Pryor. The rest of the offense is learning just as Pryor is learning. People act as if Pryor is the only player on the OSU offense that is making mistakes. What they don’t seem to realize or don’t want to realize is that these other young players are making mistakes too; players dropping passes and running the wrong routes, linemen missing blocks, running backs missing blitz pickups and not reading running lanes properly.

All of these things contribute to Pryor’s inconsistency.

Many people have compared Pryor to Vince Young. Terrelle is not Vince and never will be. Terrelle Pryor will never be anyone but Terrelle Pryor. He is already a very special player and he is only 20 years old. People seem to forget that he is a true sophomore, a college student and still very much a kid.

That “kid,” for all his flaws and inconsistencies this year has 2 of the top 9 total yards by an Ohio State player in their history, both coming this year.

372 vs. Toledo

343 vs. Minnesota

This coming from a quarterback that some fans and talking heads want moved to wide receiver. Pryor is a very special player and can do things that no other player in college football can do. I remember watching the OSU at PSU game from 2005, the game that OSU lost 17-10. Troy Smith was playing poorly and was ruthlessly being heckled by some guy at the party. He said that Troy Smith was not a quarterback, but an athlete playing quarterback. A year later Troy Smith was busy winning the Heisman and guiding Ohio State to the National Title game. I often wonder if that guy heckling Smith was ever fitted for a helmet, because he was clearly challenged mentally.

If you are a skeptic of Pryor’s, please keep in mind that the kid is young, the team is young. He will continue to improve. If you are already a fan of Pryor’s as I am, sit back and enjoy the ride, because Terrelle Pryor is one of the most gifted and unique athletes that has ever played the position of quarterback.


  1. Good overview Johnny. It wasn’t just fans but also Pete Carroll who suggested TP at WR. Anyway we all want TP to grow as a person, develop character and succeed contributing in a dynamic way to the team. We also have been waiting for those “massive changes” you’ve hinted at. Whether it’s finally getting some outside help at offensive coaching next year, we’ll take it as long as it isn’t from that shallow pool FG Jimmy always dips into. As far as this year looks like JT may have to fall back to play action to prevent collapse in the box limiting one of TPs problems, time to think. Great points on reminding us this is such a young team.

  2. Welcome to the club, Johnny!

    Nice piece! Bullet points, graphics and a coherent argument defending Terrelle Pryor. I may be obsolete soon, curse you!

  3. I am also a diehard Tennessee Titans fan. Obviously the Vince Young issues are different from this as I am convinced that VY has no chance to be a productive NFL QB. However, where it is the same is we have a section of the fanbase saying, “Let’s just make him a Wide Receiver.”

    It just doesn’t work and it’s an intellectually lazy suggestion. As athletic as Pryor is, with his long strides he’d NEVER get off the line of scrimmage against a good bump and run Cornerback. He’d become an average WR. While he may be still struggling, he definitely has a much, much better chance to have an impact for this team at Quarterback.

    It just seems to me people seem to say, “He’s fast, let’s just put him at Wide Receiver.”

  4. I agree with the WR position for Pryor. I mentioned that after the Wisconsin game. He’ll never be a pro quarterback, so if you want him to move on, put him at WR. I hope he stays his full time at OSU.

  5. I can think back when Colt McCoy struggled his first two years at Texas. He was downright awful and nobody has brought that up; if Pryor can learn to go through his progressions he will be fine. There is not too many QB’s that can buy time with their feet and that is an asset that we need with this O line we have. He will be fine and do well for the remainder of his time at THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY.

  6. Welcome to MotSaG, Johnny. : )

  7. Good points Johnny, but what about the “it” factor?

    I don’t see the intangibles coming out in Pryor. It appears he has good relationships with some, but not all of the players. Some of this may stem from the hype he receives or his relationship with Tressel. In the years Tressel has been coach, I don’t recall him ever having a relationship with a player like this. This may lead to resentment from players on a subconcious level.

    During games, Terrelle is often being coached on situations, but I only see him talking to coaches, not communicating with the offense. Pryor seems to be involved in his own world and trying hard to improve. I don’t feel this is done for selfish reasons, but rather Terrelle does not see the big picture; football is a team sport and all 11 players must improve for the team to improve.

    You brought up Troy Smith. I challenge you to watch tape of Troy Smith on the sideline and compare it to Pryor on the sideline (check out ESPN Classic or Big Ten Replay). Troy is talking with teammates, being coached, and cheering for his teammates. This is a true sign of leadership. Understanding that you are a role model for the team. If you are into the game on every level, they will follow. If you are not, neither are they.

    I’m tired about hearing about how young and inexperienced Pryor is. He is in his second season being the starting quarterback. Isn’t that the way it was before? You started your Junior season and then were expected to be solid your Senior season. Need recent history, see Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford (Heisman winners in Sophmore seasons). How about Matt Barkley this year?

    This sounds like I’m burying Pryor, but Tressel is just as guilty. Inconsistent schemes = inconsistent play. Inconsistent coaching = inconsistent play.

    In the end, I know Pryor has the talent and ability to be great, but I am questioning between the ears; the most important tool for a quarterback. Until he proves me wrong, I am not looking forward to the next 2+ seasons.

  8. I’ll take fact, data, and talent over the mythical “it” factor (Tim Tebow had it until Percy Harvin goes pro, what a coincidence)and armchair psychology on how Tressel’s relationship with his Quarterback (pretty damn common in football for the head coach to talk with his QB the most) makes other players jealous even though you don’t see how Tressel interacts with these players at practice or how Tressel has interacted with past QBs.

  9. In Troy Smith’s 2nd season he was a red shirt freshman that was returning kicks and actually got time playing tailback. Smith was a 4th string QB as well. But all of his playing time came at other positions.

    Pryor is so much further along in his 2nd year when compared to Smith…

    Pryor is VERY immature and that comes with being young…I’m not sure if this is common knowledge or not but after the Purdue loss, Pryor addressed his team and apologized for the loss and more importantly for his poor attitude.

    Doing something like is a step in the right direction as far a leadership goes…

  10. Glad to hear about Pryor after the Purdue game. That may be why the Bucks looked a little more together in the Minnesota game. I guess all the concern about Pryor is that a lot of us watch a lot of football, and there are quite a few freshmen and sophomor QBs making a splash. I’m a Buckeye fan in Alabama, so you can imagine the grief I get during the bowls.
    I like this site. Seems to be quite a few knowledgeable fans here.

  11. It’s great to read a positive article about TP. By the way, the term “sophomore slump” exist for good reason. As for Pete Carroll’s suggestion to switch TP to wide receiver…..he also got it right when he threw Mark Sanchez under the bus about not being ready to play in the NFL.

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