Pryor's Decision Came Down To OSU, U-M

It is a scenario Ohio State does not want to think about and Michigan does not want to discuss: What if Terrelle Pryor had selected the Wolverines instead of the Buckeyes? Members of both teams pondered this thought this week.

Either way, Terrelle Pryor would be suiting up for Saturday's game between Ohio State and Michigan. But as of the morning of March 19, which sideline Pryor would be standing on Nov. 22 in Ohio Stadium still remained very much in doubt.

With a press conference scheduled on a warm, windy day in his high school auditorium, the nation's No. 1 football prospect woke up with a sick feeling in his stomach. Pryor had narrowed his list to the Buckeyes and the Wolverines, and he was still having doubts about his final choice.

"I felt sick," he said at the time. "I couldn't eat in the morning. I felt so bad that I didn't choose Michigan, but I knew that I wanted to choose Ohio State. I wanted to choose Michigan, but if I chose Michigan then it would be Ohio State I would feel bad for."

As everyone knows, the native of Jeannette, Pa., selected the Buckeyes. The decision came despite the fact that those closest to Pryor felt Michigan's spread offense would be a better fit for his talents. In choosing to cast his lot with OSU's Jim Tressel as opposed to newly hired U-M head coach Rich Rodriguez, Pryor upped the stakes for this year's installment in what has been billed as the greatest rivalry in all of college sports.

The stress of Pryor's decision was so great that he did not inform Rodriguez – or Penn State assistant coach Tom Bradley – that he had selected the Buckeyes. Instead, that task fell to his father, Craig.

"I didn't tell (Rodriguez)," Terrelle Pryor said after the team's 30-20 win Oct. 15 against Illinois. "I had a relationship with Tom Bradley, I had a relationship with Rich Rodriguez and some of his staff members. It was kind of hard to say no to him, so I had my father call him."

Although he said he could not remember specifics about the conversation with Pryor's father, Rodriguez said he wished he had experienced one more phone call prior to his decision.

"As coaches, you always want to talk to them one more time before they sign," Rodriguez said with a laugh. "After they sign is after the fact. You always want to get that last call before they decide where they want to go.

"We had, I thought, a good relationship in the recruiting process. I got to know him pretty well. Obviously he's doing some wonderful things for the Buckeyes this fall."

Rodriguez said he has not sat around wondering what his offense would be like if Pryor was under center, but the reality of the situation is that Pryor likely could have made an impact for the Wolverines this season. Together, Michigan quarterbacks Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet have compiled a passing efficiency rating of 97.86.

Pryor leads the Big Ten with a rating of 152.16, although he has thrown less than half as many passes (139) as the Michigan signal-callers (313). Threet's rating is 105.26, 12th-best among Big Ten quarterbacks.

"I don't even want to think about that picture," senior tight end Rory Nicol said. "I'm glad he's here. He's made a ton of plays for us and that's really the important thing. That's not a good thought."

The same sentiment was expressed by Michigan junior offensive lineman David Moosman. Asked about Pryor nearly going to Michigan, Moosman replied, "Go on to the next question. All I really want to focus on is guys we have for us on our sidelines, and we're playing against them. He's on their sideline."

While preparing to face Pryor, Rodriguez said the focus is on how he can hurt the Wolverines and now on how much he would have been able to help them this season.

"It's a challenge because we're playing against him," Rodriguez said. "He's obviously a terrific athlete, and the things he does well, we have to have an answer for and try to stop him. The challenge is focusing on trying to stop him and keep him from making big plays."

In the end, the primary factor that helped Pryor pick the Buckeyes was the desire to play for Tressel, a man the youngster said he respects and admires. Like Rodriguez, Tressel said Pryor can be a difference-maker but declined to speculate on how he could have changed Michigan's fortunes this season.

"I think Terrelle Pryor can be a difference maker, but the good news is, we don't have to even consider that," Tressel said. "He'd have to compete to get in their lineup like he had to compete to get in our lineup and all those things, but he's a good football player."

Pryor said he last spoke to Rodriguez prior to making his final decision public. Despite his history with the two teams, Pryor said he will treat the final regular-season game as any regular game.

"I just think of them as every other team," he said. "They're just another team to me until I get into this rivalry."

A rivalry that has just had some battle lines redrawn.

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