Pryor Preparing To Make Debut

Ohio State fans have been waiting for the moment since before Terrelle Pryor even committed to join the program. This Saturday, he will make his Buckeye debut. As he has prepared for the moment, however, he has learned a few lessons along the way on and off the field -- thanks in large part to Malcolm Jenkins.

There was the headline on ESPN's famed "Bottom Line," scrolling for all the world to see throughout Tuesday afternoon.

"Ohio State freshman Terrelle Pryor will play in 1st half: Todd Boeckman will start," the ticker read.

While the so-called "Worldwide Leader In Sports" had learned that fact from OSU head coach Jim Tressel's Tuesday press luncheon, the fact that Tressel was planning on using his highly touted freshman quarterback in the first half of the first game of the year was a big statement. Not only was it the first time Tressel has publicly acknowledged that Pryor would see playing time this season, but it gave insight into how far the native of Jeannette, Pa., had come since arriving on campus in mid-June.

Pryor will play, but that is just part of the story. So, too, will redshirt freshman Joe Bauserman, provided the situation lends itself to such substitutions.

"We always like in the first half of the game to get our quarterbacks in there just so they're not nervous anymore and all that," Tressel said. "Perfect scenario for me would be to have all three of them get in the game that first half."

That was not the case last season as the Buckeyes had three players all fighting throughout the spring and summer to be the starter. Todd Boeckman earned the starting nod, but only backup Robby Schoenhoft earned a series of action during the first half. He completed 1 of 3 passes for a loss of 2 yards. Third-string quarterback Antonio Henton – in the same position on the depth chart as Pryor is currently – did not see action until the fourth quarter.

The announcement that Pryor will see early action likely placates fans who have been hoping for the freshman to immediately take over the starting reins upon arriving on campus.

Asked about those types of fans, Boeckman laughed.

"Those people ought to be our coaches," he said. "He's a great player and a great, great talent. He can do a lot of things with the football. I'm real excited he's on our football team."

How he will be utilized remains somewhat of a mystery. The best guess remains that he will be a change-of-pace quarterback from Boeckman who can specialize in short-yardage and red-zone opportunities.

According to Tressel, even the nation's top prospect suffers from a case of nerves every now and then.

"I've walked by the meeting room and Terrelle was in there watching film this morning and I asked him if he was nervous and he just had that big smile and trying to act that he wasn't going to be, but he'll be nervous," Tressel said August 27.

The game might serve as a dose of perspective for the quarterback, but it will not be the first such experience for him since arriving at OSU. Senior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said he spent the summer challenging the freshman both verbally and physically.

It took Pryor a little time to get the hang of it, apparently.

"He's humble now," Jenkins said with a laugh. "We had to show him a little bit that this is a different level and everybody's talking about him. He's done a good job of accepting that and trying to learn from the bottom up."

Those lessons were learned as the Buckeyes went through summer 7 on 7 workouts. Jenkins went out of his way to dare Pryor to throw to his side of the field and did not spare him from his share of verbal abuse.

It was a lesson of tough love, Jenkins said – and Pryor responded.

"For me, the way to test somebody's humbleness or where they are mentally is to challenge them verbally and see how they can handle people coming at them in different ways and see how they handle pressure," he said. "In a game, a lot of guys talk. You have to be able to take it and move aside and keep your cool. That's one way I check guys. At first he had a little trouble with it, but he's fine now."

Now, Pryor is gearing up for his first game in front of 105,000-plus fans at Ohio Stadium. Not only are the fans excited to see what he will able to do with the football in his hands, so too are some of his teammates.

"I know what he can do," junior tailback Chris Wells said. "He's a tremendous athlete."


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