Confidence Growing In Pryor

Ohio State fans were not the only ones excited to see what Terrelle Pryor could do when he committed to the school in the spring of 2008. The Buckeye defense had a few ideas on how to treat their new star quarterback upon his arrival, and now a few years later Pryor continues to be shaped by the lessons taught during that summer.

As Terrelle Pryor trudged off the field, Jermale Hines could clearly see that the quarterback was not happy.

It was the summer of 2007, and the nation's top overall prospect was taking part in his first 7 on 7 drill with his new Ohio State teammates. Senior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins wasted no time letting Pryor knew where he stood, verbally taunting him and giving him the business.

"Terrelle walked off the field whining," Hines said. "Guys were mouthing at each other back and forth and Terrelle basically walked off the field in anger."

Jenkins was far from the only talented player lining up against Pryor. That defense contained the likes of James Laurinaitis, Marcus Freeman and Kurt Coleman, to name a few. That lineup certainly caught Pryor's attention.

"I realized, ‘Man, this is a whole other dimension,' " Pryor said. "No one ever talked to me like that. He was talking trash to me. It was a new thing. I was a little nervous coming in and throwing against Malcolm and guys like that. Those guys are all-stars and doing great in the NFL now."

And Pryor is now coming off his sophomore season and going through his second round of spring workouts. After earning most valuable player honors as the Buckeyes defeated Oregon in the Rose Bowl, no player on the OSU entered the spring with more attention than Pryor.

One could argue that it's been that way since his arrival, but the difference is now Pryor is proving ready to handle those expectations.

"His leadership qualities have gone up," quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said. "He's more patient with everybody. He's more patient in the game of football, which helps. He's maturing as a person and when you mature as a person you're going to have a chance to mature as a player."

First up has been the question of his surgically repaired left knee. After having the knee scoped and his partially torn posterior cruciate ligament repaired, Pryor has not missed a rep during spring practices that have been open to the media.

Donning a protective brace during Friday's practice, Pryor said the extra armor was just that – protective.

"I'm just being cautious," he said. "I want to keep it on to make sure it's even more stabilized. It's 100 percent by far and feels great. I'm faster than I think I've ever been."

Without statistics – or a true opponent to measure him against – it is hard to quantify how Pryor has improved from his sophomore season. Simply put, he looks more like a quarterback than he previously has in his OSU career.

Pryor said that has to do with the fact that the game is slowing down for him.

"I make a lot better decisions (now) and the game has really, really slowed down," he said. "When you first get here you're thinking, ‘Is this ever going to slow down for me? Is this ever going to get easy like in high school?' Finally, it's really slow for me."

Footwork has been a key for Pryor. Although he has shown that he has a strong enough arm to make all the necessary throws, the ball has not always gone where it is supposed to go. Throughout his first two seasons, both Pryor and Siciliano have discussed his need to work on where the placement of his feet.

"After working with Coach (Sicliaino) so much it just feels like I finally understand why he wants me to do this stuff, why he wants me to keep my chin down and open my hip when I'm dropping (back)," Pryor said. "You can see the whole field."

That is apparently opening up the OSU offense to some new things. Thursday, Hines said the unit has used some "freaky" tactics he has not seen in his previous three years with the program. Tuesday, wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell said that is due to Pryor's continued maturation.

"He's so much more relaxed in the pocket right now where he's able to see the full field instead of half the field or even one receiver," the assistant coach said. "He sees the full field right now and is able to find his second and third receivers. It's experience and it's also learning the game a little bit more."

Although expectations from outside the program have obviously been high from the start, the OSU coaches have gone out of their way to let Pryor know that the only expectations he needs to worry about are those of his coaching staff.

Tuesday, head coach Jim Tressel said those are on the rise as well.

"To have the number of games under his belt at this point in his career is pretty good," the coach said. "Now, he's a junior and the expectations here raise a little bit within the walls with the people who are doing this every day. People outside have had expectations from day one, but our expectations certainly are rising."

Pryor said he is prepared for the situation at hand – or at least, more prepared than he was for the verbal cajoling administered by Jenkins a few years ago.

"(Expectations) jump from freshman year to sophomore year and now it's going to be even higher," he said. "I'm OK with being on magazines and stuff like that. It's stuff we have to handle. You also have to let your team know you're all for them, and without them I'm nothing, period. I'm a team player.

"I'm very excited, and if I was a Buckeye fan I would be too."

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