While the majority of the nation is clamoring for the latest on Ohio State tailback Chris Wells and his availability for Saturday night's game against USC, the same can be said about freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Formerly the nation's No. 1 prospect, Pryor was seemingly recruited to play a big role in big games this season and for the next few years.
But after seeing minimal action in OSU's closer-than-expected victory against Ohio University in week two, how much action – if at all – Pryor could be expected to see against USC became a topic of conversation.
One thing is certain, though: the coaches are confident that Pryor will be able to deliver if called upon.
"The only thing that holds back a freshman from playing in my mind is if they don't understand what we're doing and, therefore, their physical abilities can't take over," head coach Jim Tressel said. "The thing I've been impressed with with Terrelle is he understands what we're doing, so he'll have opportunities."
Against the Bobcats, Pryor played in two series. The first saw him lead the offense to a three-and-out, and he did not return to action until the Buckeyes had a 12-point lead. In the final series, he did not attempts a pass and finished the day with five carries for 37 yards and two incomplete passes from his first series of action.
However, the plan had been to put Pryor into the game with the Buckeyes clinging to a five-point lead during the fourth quarter. That situation was made less stressful when Ray Small returned a punt for a touchdown, widening the margin to 12 points.
Despite his limited role against OU, Pryor could be in line for more significant action this weekend.
"I think when you have a weapon like Terrelle, they're going to use him no matter what," said linebacker James Laurinaitis. "I wouldn't be surprised if he gets thrown in there. We'll find out on Saturday."
The thought throughout fall camp was that Pryor would serve as a change-of-pace quarterback to incumbent starter Todd Boeckman. That has not materialized as of yet, and the two have largely run the same plays while in the game.
That could change this weekend as well.
"His preparation has been pretty steady all through the week," offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said. "I think he'll be prepared. I think he's done a good job of getting ready to be a contributor this week."
Through two games, Pryor is the team's second-leading rusher behind Wells, who has only played in one game. On 14 carries, the freshman has picked up 89 yards for an average of 6.4 per carry.
Trying to get concrete answers about OSU's game plan this week has been near impossible for obvious reasons, but Boeckman did say that the team had not practiced any formations involving both he and Pryor being on the field at the same time.
Both have spent time with the first-team offense, with Boeckman getting the majority of the snaps.
"You can sense the excitement with him," senior wide receiver Brian Robiskie said of Pryor. "He's made tremendous growth since his time here. Every day he's like, ‘I'm going to do something that I haven't done since I've been here.' Just talking to him, you can see that he's definitely excited."
The Trojans now find themselves preparing for another unknown. Getting ready for a two-quarterback team results in a tougher week of work for defensive coordinators, according to OSU's Jim Heacock.
"You just work on awareness more than anything: who's in the game," the OSU defensive coordinator said. "Then you maybe make some different calls. When you've got a quarterback that becomes a running back and a running back that becomes a blocker, you can create some big gaps."
OSU wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell said his position group is accustomed to playing with both quarterbacks and that the substitution of one for another would not impact the wideouts.
It appears that the foundation has been laid for Pryor to have some sort of impact in the USC game. If and when he is called on, the Buckeyes are confident he will be able to produce.
"I think that Terrelle is working very hard to contribute to the team in whatever facet that happens and how things evolve, but honest I think he's working and improving every day," Bollman said. "He's getting more familiar with everything. I'm sure he will be ready mentally to contribute when we need him."