I admire Terrelle Pryor’s athletic ability.
I salivate over his potential, considering his 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame and supposed 4.3 40-time.
I marvel about the occasions in which he makes defenders look helpless and foolish, burning them with an atypical combination of speed and power.
But as I watch the Ohio State sophomore quarterback complete just 56 percent of his passes, while tossing six interceptions in as many games, I have doubts about whether he’ll ever reach that ceiling.
Yes, Pryor is one of the most gifted athletes to ever grace the field at Ohio Stadium. But it takes much more than athletic skill to anchor an offense in one of the nation’s most prestigious football programs.
Pryor has certainly shown glimpses of greatness.
On countless occasions, he has turned a possible sack into a large gain because of his scrambling ability.
His arm strength, a glaring weakness last season, seems to have improved. Pryor seems to have an easier time connecting with a receiver 30 yards downfield than he does with a target five yards away.
That has been a major concern through the first half of 2009. Against Toledo, Pryor threaded a pass deep downfield that resulted in a 76-yard touchdown to Dane Sanzenbacher.
But too often, Pryor can’t find that same precision on short passes, frequently throwing over the heads of receivers several yards away.
His lack of accuracy has been alarming; he has yet to post a completion rate higher than 66 percent in any game this season.
And although completing passes to teammates is one thing, completing them to the opposition is an even bigger issue.
Pryor threw just four interceptions in 165 passes during his freshman campaign. His decision making was wise and methodical, especially for a 19-year-old. This year, he has been sloppy and indecisive, resulting in six picks in 127 attempts.
So where is the progress?
The Buckeyes boast one of the country’s best defenses, holding opponents to just 11.5 points per game. Unfortunately, the offense just can’t keep pace.
Pryor wasn’t expected to morph into Troy Smith or Vince Young overnight. But at this point, he has done nearly as much to hold back the offense as he has to help it improve.
It’s been a work in progress meshing with coach Jim Tressel’s offense, the prototypical Big Ten-style run-based scheme. Tressel, however, has adapted, switching to a shotgun option formation, which plays to Pryor’s strengths.
Out of the configuration, the quarterback often has the time to dissect the defense and choose to pass or run. If only Pryor could make the decision quickly enough.
Perhaps Pryor will never develop into an above-average dropback passer. If that’s the case, then he should look to run more often.
Pryor has recorded a rush of 11 or more yards in each game this season. When he finds open space, he’s nearly impossible to bring down.
Pryor said he prefers to find his receivers rather than constantly looking to run the ball himself. Fair enough; but too often, he locks in to one target, usually sophomore DeVier Posey.
Just once this season — the opener against Navy — have more than two OSU receivers made three or more receptions in a game.
Maybe Pryor is simply sifting through a sophomore slump, finding difficulty in reading defenses that are now facing him for the second time.
Maybe Pryor will brush off a sluggish stretch and demonstrate improvement in his accuracy and decision making.
Or maybe Pryor isn’t the Michael Vick clone (minus the dogfighting) or Daunte Culpepper duplicate that so many Buckeye backers dreamed about.
Time will tell, but so will results. So far, the facts and figures indicate that Pryor’s game hasn’t progressed at anywhere near the ideal pace.