Pryor Looking For Improvement

Big expectations are nothing new for either Terrelle Pryor or Ohio State. With both pegged for big things this year in Big Ten play, take a look at the effect Pryor's selection as conference offensive player of the year has had on the conference as a whole.

CHICAGO – As the 38th annual Big Ten Football Kickoff gets underway, two athletes who might take exception to Terrelle Pryor are in attendance.

The sophomore quarterback from Ohio State was named the conference's preseason offensive player of the year after finishing out the 2008 season as the league's freshman of the year. He was the first freshman to lead the conference in passing efficiency and guided OSU to an 8-1 record excluding the Fiesta Bowl, where he started at wide receiver.

But look at the 2008 final statistics, and a few names are ahead of Pryor in nearly every statistical category – and they are also returning for another season. This year, seniors Daryll Clark from Penn State, Isiah "Juice" Williams from Illinois and junior Adam Weber from Minnesota all will lead their teams on the field just like Pryor.

In an event typically laden with seniors, only Clark and Williams are in Chicago representing their programs. The senior-to-be for the Nittany Lions said he is fine with Pryor bringing home the preseason award.

"Everyone has their opinion," Clark said. "It didn't bother me when I heard about it. Congratulations to him. I have a lot of things I have to improve on to get us back to California and to a national championship. That's what I'm focused on."

Looking at the league from top to bottom, even OSU head coach Jim Tressel admitted his surprise at Pryor's honor. But perhaps it should be no surprise for a player who arrived in Columbus on a whirlwind of publicity after a recruitment that captured the attention of the country.

The nation's former No. 1 recruit, Pryor eventually selected the Buckeyes over Michigan and a host of others about a month after National Signing Day had passed. The buzz has had a carryover effect for Pryor, Big Ten Network analyst and former Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo told BuckeyeSports.com.

"I would say all the attention that Terrelle Pryor has received through recruiting and through his freshman year in college, I don't see any downside to it," DiNardo said. "I don't see any place where it's been a negative. I think Jim has done a great job of handling it and Terrelle Pryor seems to be someone who can handle it."

The task now is to start improving on some of the numbers Pryor put up as a freshman. That year, the Buckeye quarterback was 10th in the conference with an average of 100.8 passing yards per game and 9th in total offense at 149.4 yards per game and behind Clark, Weber and Williams in each category.

Both Weber (230.3) and Williams (264.4) averaged more than double the passing yards Pryor did last season and Clark (199.8) came up just short, while Williams' average of 324.5 yards of total offense again more than doubled Pryor's average of 149.4.

However, Pryor's impact on the game is not always felt on the stat sheet, as Penn State head coach Joe Paterno alluded.

"Heck of an athlete," Paterno said. "He's a heck of a football player and a heck of an athlete. I tell you what, he's good."

During his time at the podium, the first question asked of Tressel concerned Pryor and whether he was ready for his first full year as the unquestioned man under center.

"I though his preparation this spring was excellent," Tressel said. "He's a guy that's passionate about being good. He's very serious about the game. He studies the game extremely hard. Loves to study film, loves to just be on his own with his DVDs and grow as a quarterback. Not unlike our team, the maturity in September is going to be a great challenge. That will be a real plus for him to face the challenges that we have but we feel real good about it."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney said he is glad that Pryor wound up in his conference.

"For him to be in the Big Ten is a great statement for Ohio State and the Big Ten," he said. "He's really one of the more talented athletes I've ever seen at that position, particularly in the Big Ten."

Now the remaining question is whether he will be able to live up to the hype. Pryor's previous experiences seem to indicate that he'll be fine, DiNardo said.

"I watched him in the spring practice and to me he was a hungry player. If the quarterback coach wasn't talking to him he was listening to what he was saying. Jim has said what kind of work habits he has. So far, I don't think there has been any downside to him and it could help him in the big pressure situations.

"So far, so good."


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