Both highs and lows have encompassed Terrelle Pryor’s career so far, but as he ventures into the second half of his time at the helm, he is still working on that one final word to describe his game as a quarterback: complete.
Best known for his ability to make his opposition pay with his legs, Pryor has rarely been seen as a player who was going to dominate with his arm, until he did so against Oregon.
Whether the 266 yards and two touchdowns against the Ducks to win the Rose Bowl is going to be just one game or an every-game possibility remains to be seen.
Pryor, however, continues to work in order to be known as a quarterback, not just an athlete lining up at the position.
“I felt a little bit like it last year, but I was still going through the motions,” Pryor said. “Last year, I was trying to please people. People were saying I couldn’t play quarterback, and I feel like I was trying to prove people wrong.”
He did at times silence his doubters, especially in the Rose Bowl, where his blend of pass and run finally bewildered a defense. After other games like OSU’s loss to Purdue, however, the talk that Pryor can’t play quarterback was heard loud and clear.
In the second half of his career, Pryor knows he must eliminate the mistakes and mental errors which have affected him in seasons past. He said for him, the game is finally starting to change.
“It’s all about decision making,” Pryor said. “I make a lot better decisions and the game has really, really slowed down. When you first get here, you’re kind of thinking ‘Is this ever going to slow down for me? Is this ever going to be easy like high school?’ Finally, it really slowed down.”
The expectations for him, which were sky high when he stepped onto campus, have continued to rise. Not only his expectations for himself, but those of his fans, teammates and coaches have risen substantially.
He was expected to manage games and limit mistakes, like he did later in the season against Iowa and Michigan. He will now be expected to win games and make plays as the most experienced weapon on a veteran offense.
“He is a junior and the expectations here raise a little bit, meaning within the walls of the folks who are doing this every day,” coach Jim Tressel said. “I think just in general his calmness and his command have 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.”
One word will finally stop being used to describe the nation’s former No. 1 recruit: young. At times in the first two seasons, when a pass didn’t find a receiver or the ball was intercepted or fumbled, the fact that Pryor was new to the game of college football was used to buy him more time. That will no longer be the case, as Pryor is now on the backside of his career.
Pryor admitted it took time for him to realize that college football wasn’t going to come as easily as high school football did, when he “was a quarterback who could throw the deep pass 60-yards and would connect with somebody,” he said.
Now Pryor isn’t looking to just find his receiver, but do all the things a quarterback should when completing a pass. He said he has worked tirelessly on timing and footwork, trying to complete a pass to his receivers in stride while also putting the ball on the correct shoulder.
“I never worked on accuracy or did accuracy drills. That’s my girlfriend over there,” Pryor said with a laugh as he pointed to the accuracy throwing net. “I throw through that net all the time, me and coach [Eric] Lichter, and we work constantly three times a week.”
“We come over here for about an hour and he goes to work with me and pushes me hard,” Pryor said. “It’s all about fighting yourself and making yourself better so you can eventually lead the team and make them better.”
For Pryor to finally become a complete quarterback, he will have to master the art of decision making. If the Rose Bowl was any indication of what defenses he will have to deal with in 2010, Pryor will be difficult to contain.
Pryor said his decision-making process will be judged by the game situation and if he feels like he could easily pick up the yards or a first down with his legs, he would do so. He has worked to improve his arm but he doesn’t want to forget what makes him such a threat.
“I never want to lose that part of my game,” Pryor said of his scrambling ability. “You never can because then you are taking away from God’s gift that he gave you. That’s what God gave me, legs and an arm, and now I’m finally getting my arm involved and the defense has a lot of trouble to work on.”
The progression of Pryor has taken part mostly on the field, but he didn’t doubt that he sees changes in himself off the field as well. Maturity and growth is something all players strive to experience, but for Pryor, his progression as a quarterback and even as a person have come full circle.
“I feel like I’m more of a people person now. I feel like I have a relief off my chest,” Pryor said. “I can be just happy all the time and enjoy my teammates and talk with all my teammates no matter who it is and hold conversations with people outside of football. I feel great as an individual and I feel great as a quarterback.”