Monday, May 31, 2010

Will Terrelle Pryor Follow in Troy Smith's Footsteps at Ohio State?

By Will Frasure—Featured Contributor

Terrelle Pryor’s Rose Bowl performance against the Oregon Ducks looked eerily similar to that of another former Buckeye QB in a BCS bowl game.

In 2006, Troy Smith led a bludgeoning over the Notre Dame defense, throwing for 342 yards en route to a 34-20 victory over the Irish.

Momentum from the game carried over into the next season—Smith led Ohio State to the national title game and took home the Heisman Trophy.

Will a great BCS performance lead to the same for Pryor?

Judging by what fans are saying after the Buckeyes’ spring practices, the answer would appear to be yes. After Pryor threw 37 times in his dominating performance against Oregon (nine more attempts than his previous season high), coach Jim Tressel has let him take the reins of the offense during spring ball

Pryor, although he has always had great confidence, has appeared more comfortable at the quarterback position this spring, which bodes well for the season. His success against Oregon proved what Pryor could do when he isn’t hesitant, a huge confidence-builder carrying over to this year.

The biggest problem with Pryor last season was his indecisiveness. Pryor may have great speed and scrambling ability, but he also has a rocket arm. If he can stay in the pocket and deliver the ball to his receivers, the quarterback can turn into the dangerous weapon Ohio State envisioned when he first touched down in Columbus.

Smith was always known as a scrambler before his Heisman year, but he became calmer in the pocket his senior year, which led to his success. The same can happen with Pryor.

Tressel has always been known for his conservative play-calling, but if there was ever a year for “The Vest” to break away from his ways, this would be the year.

The Buckeyes return nine offensive starters. Brandon Saine has proven he is a dangerous pass-catching threat out of the backfield, and the emergence of Jake Stoneburner as a hybrid tight end/receiver gives Pryor another target. Tressel loosened things up the most he ever has at Ohio State during Smith's Heisman.

Expect an even bigger step this next season.

Signs point to an explosive offense for Ohio State, but what if Pryor doesn’t show progress? What if he has an early game like his abysmal Purdue game last season? If the past gives us any indication, Tressel is going to make the offense more conservative, like he always has at Ohio State. He’ll rely on his outstanding defense and won’t get creative with the offense, a la Iowa last season.

With the inconsistency Pryor has shown in the past, it’s not unreasonable to think he’ll resort to his old ways in 2010.

But after seeing such great progress against the Ducks, expectations about Pryor are ridiculously high. Against what is supposed to be the best spread offense in the land, Pryor thoroughly outdid Jeremiah Masoli and the rest of Oregon’s spread attack.

He showed what everyone had been expecting when he signed with the Buckeyes

With all the talent returning, along with the progress he’s shown, it’s not crazy to think Pryor can bring home the Heisman Trophy like Smith did in 2006.

Like Smith, his journey to the Heisman may have started during his bowl game the year before.

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