Maturing Terrelle Pryor sounding like the man in charge

Ralph N. Paulk
| Monday, Aug. 9, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Terrelle Pryor understands that the oft-unforgiving Ohio State fans are expecting him to deliver a national championship in this his third season as the Buckeyes' quarterback.

They don't want excuses like the tender knee that healed slowly after an early-season injury against New Mexico State in 2009. They don't want this to be another year of learning, a stepping stone to future success.

What they want, of course, is for the Jeannette native to assume command of an Ohio State team that has great expectations.

On Sunday, Pryor talked and looked like a man in charge of his team while confidently answering an array of question in the south end zone at Ohio Stadium during the Buckeyes' Media Day.

As Ohio State coach Jim Tressel manned the podium, Pryor took a seat near the stands, listening intently. At times, a once-guarded Pryor seemed anxious to engage the media.

He was quick to point out that his summer workouts yielded a more confident quarterback -- one his teammates have embraced as a team leader.

"I'm going into preseason camp having worked very hard at watching film and finding out what kind of edge I can get," Pryor said. "I really feel like a quarterback now."

Pryor insisted he's a complete quarterback.

"I can still run the ball," he said. "But,I'm much smarter, and I've grown, so it's going to be an interesting year for me."

Pryor, whose ability to escape a pass rush was hampered last season by his lack of confidence in his knee. will be challenged to evolve into more of a pocket quarterback, particularly if he hasn't recovered mentally from the injury.

"It's nothing that's devastating for me," said Pryor, who last season passed for 2,094 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. "It's nothing that can hold me back from playing. It was sore, and sometimes I had to take some pills before I stepped onto the field. I was trying to get wins.

"When I injured my knee, there was a lot of pain. There were a couple of games were I couldn't run. Every time I tried to cut, it felt like my leg would just give out."

Tressel, entering his 10th season at Ohio State, is leaning on Pryor's leadership skills as the Buckeyes pursue their first national title since 2003.

"Now that he's at the back end of his career, Terrelle keeps growing - his leadership, his maturity, knowledge of the game," Tressel said. "He's very comfortable doing all the things a quarterback and a leader has to do."

But can Pryor handle the pressure of living up to the enormous expectations that have followed him since his junior year in high school?

"There's only one way to handle the expectations, and that's being able to handle what's going on that very second," Tressel said. "He's going to have expectations for the next two years and when he goes to the NFL."

Pryor, in an effort to avoid an early-season stumble, spent the offseason talking more with his teammates.

"I think I'm a natural leader," Pryor said. "Last year, I was kind of confused. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I can hold my own with the coaches in the meeting room - that's where it all starts."

Jordan Hall, a sophomore running back and former high school teammate, said Pryor is far more focused than a year ago and isn't likely to be distracted neither by hype or expectations.

"I know it's a matter of time before (Pryor) proves how good he is," Hall said. "He deserves it, because he's put in the work. He's much more knowledgeable about the offense this season, so I think we have the right guy at quarterback to carry us to a national championship."

With Ohio State ranked second in the nation in the coaches' preseason poll, Pryor seems poised to take that next step. But he said he would not be in this position had he not adjusted his attitude.

"I was a little arrogant as a freshman and kind of to myself," he said. "Everybody was telling me how great I was.

"Now, I feel humble. I push myself to the limit. I want to leave a legacy here, and that's why I'll be here for four years."

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