Pryor Making The Calls

Ohio State junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor helps his team's offense in a number of ways, but recently he has been a more vocal contributor to how plans are being made. As the Buckeyes prepare for Penn State, find out how Pryor's ability to recognize things at the line of scrimmage have started to affect OSU's methods of attack.

When Terrelle Pryor selected Ohio State as his college destination, he did so in part because he felt the Buckeyes would do the best job of preparing him to be an NFL quarterback.

Now a junior, Pryor sits fifth in the nation in passing efficiency and is showing marked progress in that arena this season. Given his druthers, however, the quarterback said he would prefer to spread the field and run a more wide-open offense.

With talk of how Pryor has been given a little more leeway to make calls at the line of scrimmage in recent weeks, the native of Jeannette, Pa., was asked what he would do if given full control over the game plan.

"I'd probably put some small guys in the backfield like Boom (Dan Herron), Jordan (Hall) and Jaamal Berry in the shotgun and spread the field out and make the defense make some plays," he said prior to the Minnesota game. "There's not many people who can tackle Boom or Jordan or Jaamal Berry in space. I'd run some zone reads."

That final statement is laced with some irony. Pryor's other top choice was Michigan, where he would be running Rich Rodriguez's spread offense that would rely heavily on zone reads and similar plays. As a freshman starter in Columbus, Pryor utilized such plays while pairing up with bruising tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells but has grown into a more complete passer since.

His rate of progression has been great enough that Pryor is starting to suggest plays to the coaching staff, some of which are even used.

"He came to us at one point in (the Purdue) game and said, ‘Here's the way they're playing this, we've got to throw this," head coach Jim Tressel said, "and all of a sudden he hits a 19-yard dig route. He had it cold. And all of a sudden he came back and called the next play."

The situation had Tressel jokingly asking his offensive assistant coaches what their purpose was during games.

Looking back on the game against the Boilermakers in particular, Pryor said his calls were the result of film study, which begins each Sunday. When the Buckeyes suit up for Tuesday's practice, the quarterback offers some input to Tressel.

"There were one or two plays in the game I called," Pryor said. "There's a bunch of times in games I call my own routes for the receivers depending on the coverages. They definitely give me some freedom to have some open-minded calls."

As a prep star, Pryor became the first athlete from Pennsylvania to amass more than 4,000 rushing and passing yards while leading the Jayhawks to a state title during his senior season. While he was there, Pryor had plenty of freedom to make plays under the direction of his coaches.

"We called plays, but he would come over and tell us, ‘Coach, this is open,' " said Roy Hall, the current Jeannette head coach who was Pryor's quarterbacks coach. "I remember one game he said, ‘Coach, give me the ball. I'll take the ball.' I remember the coach saying, ‘Terrelle, that is the plan.' "

As Hall recalled it, "nine out of 10 times, with him a called play is going to work."

Although he has obviously been a dual-threat option at OSU, Pryor has grown into more of a passer this season. Through nine games this season, he has thrown for 1,997 yards and 20 touchdowns. In 13 games as a junior, he threw for 2,094 yards and 18 scores.

He has done so while spending more time lined up under center than in the past.

"I think he's becoming more comfortable in that and that's something we want him to (get better at)," Tressel said.

At the end of the day, though, it will be the OSU coaches and not Pryor making nearly all the play calls. The quarterback's input is just one voice of many that helps contribute to the team's offensive attack. He just might have a better vantage point than the others.

"Sometimes the coaches can't really see because I'm the person behind the center," he said. "Nothing against the coaches but it's usually right what I see. Don't get me wrong – sometimes I'm wrong also. Most of the time I feel like I'm right. I'd say a high percentage because I'm standing right there and I know.

"Then you've got to go into the game and not make stupid decisions, which sometimes I still do."

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