Pryor says he finally feels like a QB

Ohio State’s secret weapon isn’t much of a secret.

After two years of tutoring, coaxing, learning and waiting,

Terrelle Pryor is no longer just a gifted athlete but a genuine

quarterback.

It’s almost too much for assistant head coach and wide receivers

assistant Darrell Hazell. His voice drops to a conspiratorial

whisper as he says, ”You’ve just seen the beginning of greatness,

I think. I believe that. He’s so much better right now. He looks

like a true quarterback. He gets back in his drops now, sees the

field so much better now than he did last year – so much

better.”

Regardless of the departures and arrivals that make up a typical

year for a college team, Ohio State’s coaches think the biggest

difference in the second-ranked Buckeyes this year is Pryor’s

comprehension of the position.

”The fun part of what we do is that every guy that comes in at

17 or 18, it’s dramatic how we see them change,” coach Jim Tressel

said. ”Terrelle is no different. He just happened to be walking

around with a spotlight on him the whole time. I think his change

has been as significant as anyone else’s.”

The first test comes Thursday night when the junior leads Ohio

State up against Marshall at Ohio Stadium.

”I really feel like a quarterback,” Pryor said. ”I feel like

I can be a complete quarterback, but I can also run the ball. It’s

going to be interesting, just how much smarter I am and how much I

grew. … It’s the first time I could actually look at film and see

how much I’ve grown and matured. I go through the reads right, I

hit my checkdowns now, I take the right steps in the handoff. It

just feels like everything is good.”

Despite winning 19 of 23 games since he took over as a callow

freshman, those who see Pryor on a daily basis say he’s only

scratched the surface.

”The guy is a freak of nature,” safety Jermale Hines said.

”And not only is he a freak of nature, but he’s coming along as a

quarterback. He’s starting to look off (defenders) and things like

that. His arm has gotten way stronger. But I’m really not surprised

because he’s the hardest working guy on the team. Hands down.”

In his first two years running the offense (he took over for

Todd Boeckman four games into the 2008 season), Pryor has flashed

the ability to make an eye-popping run with that fluid, 6-foot-6,

235-pound frame. When he is assigned to tuck the ball under his

arm, or he is flushed out of the pocket, he puts pressure on a

defense to break coverage and hunt him down. And he is extremely

fast and elusive for a man his size.

”He’s scary when he can run it and threaten the edge because

he’s a hard guy to tackle,” Hazell said.

His passing, however, has been spotty. Even though he’s

completed 58 percent and has a 2-to-1 ratio on TD passes to

interceptions (30-15), there have been times when he has been

inaccurate and inefficient. He seldom threw deep or even

medium-range passes. Some blamed a shot-put throwing motion. So

Pryor worked for hour after hour on passing drills during the

offseason, streamlining his release point and honing his touch.

Couple that and his running ability with his increased awareness

of coverages and blitzes and he becomes potentially the best

quarterback in the country.

”We always knew Pryor had the talent, the ability, it all comes

down to what’s going on in his mind,” cornerback Chimdi Chekwa

said.

Tressel said that it’s taken time.

”Terrelle has a good confidence about himself instinctively,”

he said. ”I also think that he has a tough standard of excellence

that he puts on himself. I think he’s grown into understanding that

this is a journey and that every moment is not an end-all

moment.”

With increased understanding of what’s going on around him on

the field, Pryor has gained a lot of respect from his

teammates.

”Last year TP was kind of just playing off his freshman year

and still wasn’t really sure of what was going on,” cornerback

Devon Torrence said. ”But this year, man, he’s very decisive when

he’s out there. He understands the whole package, what everybody’s

doing. And checkdowns. He’s calling out the defense and the stunts

and the blitzes and everything and he knows who the hot receiver

is.”

No wonder with a new season looming, Pryor feels as if he’s at a

crossroads.

”I’m very anxious, I’m a little nervous,” he conceded. ”But I

also think we’re ready.”