April 14, 2010

Coaches to expect more from Pryor

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was subject to the high expectations the Buckeye fan base put on him the second he arrived on campus roughly two years ago.

Now, entering his junior season as a third-year starting quarterback for Ohio State, he has some expectations to live up to that actually mean something.

Pryor - who cam to Ohio State has the top player in the 2008 recruiting class - now partakes in spring drills as a leader, and though weird to say, an upper-classman. Because of this, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel admitted he expects more out of him this season.

"He is a junior and the expectations here raise a little bit, here meaning within the walls of the folks who are doing this every day," Tressel said Tuesday on a conference call.

Pryor's season ended on a high now last year after he completed 23-of-27 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns in addition to his 72 yards rushing in Ohio State's Rose Bowl win over Oregon, but it wasn't always pretty for the quarterback last season.

After committing four turnovers by himself that led to Ohio State's mid-season loss to Purdue - its second loss of the year - Tressel turned to limiting Pryor in the team's remaining five games in order to keep the mistakes to a minimum.

During that span, Pryor was limited to 17 passes or less per game, a stretch in which the Buckeyes won all five games en route to clinching the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth.

But during that's when Tressel saw the change in Pryor.

"I think just in general his calmness and his command has improved through the course of these first seven practices and I think it really began heading in that direction during the month-long bowl practice as well," Tressel said.

With the added trust, Tressel's game plan shifted in the Buckeyes' win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Rather than keeping it simple on offense and hoping to limit mistakes, Tressel put the ball in Pryor's hands and allowed him to make plays.

The result? Pryor had perhaps the best game of his career with the Buckeyes and was named the Rose Bowl MVP.

Now, heading into 2010 with national title hopes, it seems as if the Buckeyes will expand their offense even more while giving Pryor the freedom to make plays on his own.

But with the trust comes those expectations.

"The playbook is a little bit bigger this year than it was last year," said wide receiver coach Darrell Hazell. "I think it is because No. 2 is better, which is where you have to start… He is so much more relaxed in the pocket right now where he is able to see the who field instead of half the field or one receiver. He sees the full field right now and is able to find his second and third receiver.

"I think we have a blueprint of things we want him to accomplished," he added. "If he stays within the blueprint, he will be fine."

Tressel has noticed a continual growth out of Pryor since the commencement of last year's bowl practice and it has continued into this spring. While Tressel has watched the progression, he isn't quite sure of where Pryor is now in terms of where he expected the quarterback to be at this time in his career.

"I don't know that I expected him after two years have been the quarterback on two Big Ten Championship teams and taken us to two BCS games," Tressel said. "I don't know that I thought, 'Oh boy that is going to be a walk in the park to do that.' Now am I surprised that he has been able to be a part of that? No. I don't know that I thought that was going to be an automatic."

But Tressel has noticed the strides the quarterback has made now that he is an upper classman. The head coach cited things such as comfort in the pocket, decision-making, and even game awareness as things Pryor has improved on.

And his receivers have noticed it, too.

"He is definitely gotten a lot better," said wide receiver DeVier Posey. "I know just me as a receiver, I am just trying to get used to catching his passes right out of breaks. It is a lot different last year where I was coming out of my breaks, and not necessarily waiting, but our timing is a lot better now."

Tressel and has staff are seemingly ready to hand the ball to Pryor and allow him to make plays this season. Now all that's left is to see what Pryor is capable of now that he has the full trust of the coaching staff.

"People outside have had expectations from day on," Tressel said. "Our expectations are certainly rising."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

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