Harris and Pryor embracing chance to match skills
Jacory Harris and Terrelle Pryor were introduced a couple years ago by a mutual friend on a phone call, the two quarterbacks quickly becoming confidants.
Their favorite discussion topic?
''Anything but football,'' Harris said.
There's no way that would be possible this week.
Potentially Heisman-contending quarterbacks - and more importantly, potentially championship-contending teams - will meet in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, Harris leading No. 12 Miami (1-0) into a stadium filled with 105,000 or so fans, most of whom who will be there to root on Pryor and No. 2 Ohio State (1-0).
It took a long time, but Harris and Pryor will finally have their paths collide on the field.
''We talked earlier this week,'' Pryor said. ''We just said, `Stay injury-free, have a good game and let's make this game go down in history.' We don't have too many words for each other. We're just trying to come out and get a win for our team.''
Comparisons of the two starting quarterbacks are inevitable this week, considering they've been getting made for years anyway.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Pryor is two inches taller and 40 pounds heavier, yet there's plenty of statistical similarities. Both have played 27 games. Pryor has combined to run and pass for 5,079 yards and 46 touchdowns, while Harris - more of a thrower, not so much of a runner - has 4,636 yards and 42 touchdowns.
They share this in common, too: Both are ardent followers of LeBron James, the longtime Buckeyes fan and new Miami Heat star.
''I told him I owe him a show,'' said Pryor, who's urging Ohio State fans not to boo James - who scorned Cleveland to join Miami this summer - if he shows up on Saturday and calls the two-time NBA MVP his mentor. ''Next time he comes, I told him I have to give him a show, because we lost the last time he came to Penn State, 13-6.''
Given that, maybe having James there would be good luck for Miami, even though he predicts an Ohio State win.
''Hopefully he'll show up,'' Harris said, undeterred by James' prediction. ''That's on him. That's LeBron James. I'm not going to be mad at him.''
Even if James is there, most eyes will be on the quarterbacks.
And that speaks volumes about how vital they will be on Saturday.
Both came to their schools amid much fanfare, and both have had trouble always meeting expectations. Harris threw 17 interceptions last season, the second-most in major college football. Pryor arrived at Ohio State drawing comparisons to Vince Young, and even going 22-5 in games which he's appeared - even with a scintillating show in the 2010 Rose Bowl - hasn't always been enough to satisfy the Buckeye faithful.
One of them may take a giant step forward Saturday. One of their teams is certain to do so.
''I think they've traveled a similar road,'' Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. ''They both got put in there at an early point in their freshman year. ... And like any young kids, you can tell both of them are very passionate, both of them have tremendous big-play ability. They love what they're doing.''
Harris and Pryor met through Miami defensive lineman Marcus Forston. Pryor and Forston got to know each other at the U.S. Army All-American Game before going to college, and Forston - who was Harris' teammate at Miami Northwestern High as well - arranged their first conversation.
Forston likes Pryor. Not surprisingly, he likes Harris more.
''We go up against the best quarterback in the nation every day,'' Forston said. ''Going against Jacory every day, we can be ready for any quarterback.''
By now, Harris and Pryor are used to hype, which is why they can easily shrug off any notion that Saturday is simply a 1-on-1 battle between the two of them.
''I think they're two competitive guys,'' Miami coach Randy Shannon said. ''But I know Jacory is a mature kid and understands, `It can't be me. It's got to be our team.' Jacory has studied a lot of film and he understands that when he's just being Jacory, great things happen at the University of Miami.''
They say the same about Pryor at Ohio State.
When he throws a touchdown pass, the Buckeyes are 17-1. When he doesn't throw one, they're 5-4. Pretty simple math there.
''Me and Jacory have to go into the ballgame thinking whomever turns this ball over is going to lose the game,'' Pryor said. ''That's when you're going to put your defense in a bad position, and that's when the gamechangers start.''
They'll likely say hello before the game, and then share an embrace afterward.
The 3 1/2 hours or so of football in between those acts, they might tell the tale of how 2010 will set up for both quarterbacks. And neither can hardly wait for the big show to arrive.
''I think 105,000 people, I'm pretty sure it's going to be crazy,'' Harris said. ''For a quarterback, well, for me, it's fun. You go to big schools to be in an atmosphere like this. It's going to be a fun, exciting thing.''