So Ohio State’s trip to the West Coast for a football game turned out to be convenient for news-gathering as it happened to coincide with the first home pro start for Terrelle Pryor, the erstwhile Buckeye quarterback.
Among those Pryor talked to was Columbus Dispatch reporter Todd Jones, whom the current Oakland Raiders signal caller told, “Those guys (Ohio State) kicked me out of school after all those things I did for them.” Continue reading →
I’m stuck between two Metallica songs in my search for a title for this post.
I guess I’m supposed to have a reaction to Ohio State’s response to the NCAA, but I’m kind of burned out on the topic.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: This is news. There are plenty of interesting tidbits in the documents the school released Friday (find them here), but for anyone who has been following along from the beginning, there wasn’t all that much real, substantive news.
So what is the lesson, if there is one?
I think it’s that sometimes what they don’t say matters as much as what they do.
In this case, I’m referring to the fact that the NCAA still has not alleged Ohio State failed to monitor the situation properly or that it exhibited lack of institutional control. I am under the impression the organization could still do that if it sees fit, but there is no concrete reason to expect that at this point.
Many people got all bent out of shape over what they perceive as a light punishment self-imposed by the Buckeye brass, but most of them have already shown themselves to be a little too itchy on that trigger finger.
They’re also missing an important distinction between what has been reported and what the NCAA actually has shown any real concern about, at least enough to express it in writing. As long as that continues to be the case, I suppose we will still have to deal with the howls and those people will have to learn to get over their disappointment.
Ohio State looked a lot better on paper yesterday than it has looked in the press for quite some time, and that is an incredibly meaningful thing.
However, the time for exhaling has not arrived in Ohio quite yet.
The conclusion of Ohio State’s response could be taken as ominous even though it might turn out to be innocuous.
It reads, “Information was reported to the University and the enforcement staff subsequent to the Notice of Allegations that still is being reviewed. This review continues and the University will report any additional violations if necessary in the future.”
This means Ohio State is not quite out of the woods. While obviously vague (and possibly procedural), the reference to further reviews likely has to do with reports former quarterback Terrelle Pryor had multiple dealings with a Columbus photographer who allegedly paid him for autographs he could later sell.
But much like when Maurice Clarett faced charges of accepting extra benefits (not to mention misleading NCAA investigators), this figures to be tough for the NCAA to prove because Pryor left town with indications he won’t be back, at least not to see them, and the photographer is likely in no hurry to talk to them, either.
There has been one unsubstantiated report that a paper trail exists between Pryor and the photographer, but it stands to reason the persons who made that report would have produced proof by now. And if the NCAA actually had such evidence last month, Ohio State likely would have included a response to that charge with the rest on Friday.
What is certain is that nothing is assured until the case is finally heard, and someone is going to be disappointed in the outcome. Whether it is Ohio State and its fans or the sanction hawks throughout the national media and fan bases, only time will tell.
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to find Jon Gruden is working with former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor given the praise Gruden had for Pryor when the Super Bowl-winning head coach (and Ohio native with a professed love for the Buckeyes) was in town for the Ohio State coaches clinic in April:
“I’m accused of liking too many people – ‘Gruden likes everybody,’ ” he quipped. “Well, sorry about that, (but) Bill Walsh used to say, ‘Don’t tell me what this guy can’t do. Tell me what he can do.’And I tell you, Terrelle Pryor can run and he can throw. And he’s a helluva competitor. And if I coached him I’d find something for him to do. You might have to cater your offense to a degree towards his strengths. But I think this guy can develop his passing the more you pass the ball. And I think the guy is a unique, rare talent.”
Gruden also cited Pryor’s on-field success, including a 31-4 record as a starter and most valuable player awards from two BCS bowl games, as reason to believe in what Pryor can do at the next level.
“He’s not playing against choir boys here. This is a guy who has dominated college football.”
Check out BuckeyeSports.com for more from Jardy, myself and the rest of our BSB staff on Pryor and Ohio State.
Terrelle Pryor would come to Ohio State, learn to follow Jim Tressel’s virtues on and off the field, then leave a star with the world at his fingertips.
Michigan had the offense that was more appropriate (so it seemed then) and the depth chart was more friendly for the player that he was at the moment. Yet he chose Ohio State for the player he wanted to be. He could have been an instant star at Michigan, but the bigger challenge of learning Tressel’s ways promised an even bigger payoff down the line, as it had for recent Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith.
An uber-talented but extremely raw prospect, Pryor was probably better off sitting a year anyway, so the presence of returning senior starting quarterback Todd Boeckman made Ohio State all the more attractive.
The whole experiment started well enough with Pryor and five of his talented freshmen teammates debuting together in the first quarter of a 43-0 win over Youngstown State, but it didn’t take long for the script to need major revisions.
First came a foot injury to Beanie Wells in the second half against the Penguins, then Boeckman and the entire starting offense was shaky enough in a 26-14 defeat of Ohio in week two that Pryor did not get as many snaps as the coaching staff would have liked ahead of a showdown with USC.
Boeckman’s three turnovers against the Trojans, including a momentous interception Rey Maualuga returned for a touchdown to make it 21-3 in the second quarter, then led to the original plan to be scrapped entirely.
Pryor was the starter in week four, and though early returns were positive, one is left to wonder if he had been better off left to improve mostly behind the scenes than in the spotlight for the next two and a half years.
From the beginning, Pryor left no doubt he wanted to get better as a passer, and he seemed to want to learn to please those of us in the media, too, but no one ever seemed quite sure what type of teammate he was or what kind he wanted to be.
Tressel and quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano seemed to sense from the beginning that Pryor had a fragile psyche. That they prevented him from doing many interviews his freshman year was not surprising, but that they sent Siciliano out to act practically as a bodyguard after Pryor’s fumble opened the door to Penn State’s comeback victory in 2008 was.
More than one of his teammates, who all had conducted their interviews like normal and left the room by the time Pryor was made available, said Pryor had taken the loss hard and blamed himself for it.
Naturally, that led to his being asked if that was true, and even as Pryor responded in the affirmative, Siciliano quickly interjected to comfort the quarterback and assure him it wasn’t. I found that strange at the time, and I still can’t quite comprehend it now.
Sometimes we ink-stained wretches can be a bit too carnivorous in our pursuit of a storyline, but this one was willfully laid out there by the participants of the contest. No one went out of their way to pry loose a claim of blame. It was readily attached by the culprit himself, so why fight it?
But I suppose now looking back that’s a symbol for the whole way Pryor was handled.
I understand managing people is no one-size-fits-all exercise, but this took uniqueness to new heights, and it seems to have failed.
What are we to think now that we know while Ohio State was protecting Pryor from too many negative outside influences, he was allegedly doing quite well for himself on a different open market?
One of the biggest challenges of coaching at a place like OSU is to convince the players the virtue of patience.
It’s easy for them to look to the future and see what’s possible as well as the riches around them and wonder why they have to wait, but bosses driving luxury cars while the help toil at the tasks that really make the company run is nothing unique to college athletics. Most of the people reading this probably have felt the same envy toward their own management and wondered when they will get their share. Of course, they don’t have athletic gifts that amount to a trust fund ready to be cashed as early as the age of 21 for football players, so the comparison is far from perfect. It also makes Pryor’s alleged misdeeds all the more difficult to digest.
As for Pryor’s playing career, that’s a bit easier to break down.
He came in with the label – attached not by the media but his high school coach – of the next Vince Young, a similarly built if somewhat differently skilled quarterback who led Texas to victory at Ohio Stadium and later in the national championship game during the 2005 season.
He took over as the starting quarterback as a freshman thanks in part to his willingness to play the role of Craig Krenzel even if he wasn’t ready to be the next Smith yet. Although Pryor’s mix of size and skill seemed to mesmerize Tressel, it was game management that tipped the scales in Pryor’s favor when Boeckman faltered.
The youngster proved his coach’s decision right for most of the rest of that 2008 campaign, his ill-advised freelancing against Penn State and a brain-lock interception to open the Michigan game notwithstanding.
That made the stories for the next spring easy to write. Pryor had established an easily recognizable baseline from which to build, leaving the only question how long it would take him to grow into a complete player and, inevitably, an unstoppable force.
Tressel sang Pryor’s praises at any and every opportunity, saying he had made remarkable progress and letting anyone who would listen know that he could be expected to do great things when autumn rolled around. By then, a 2009 season that was thought to be one for rebuilding had begun to look like it could be much more.
For the cover story of the annual Buckeye Sports Bulletin football preview, I talked to several former Ohio State quarterbacks as well as former QBs coach Joe Daniels about just what that would take. The consensus was Pryor needed to maintain his proclivity to protect the ball and complement it with a knack for when to push the limit and create big plays.
Of course he needed to improve in nearly every phase of the game, including accuracy and decision making, but all agreed that is the factor that separates the good from the great in the quarterback pantheon.
It sounded easy enough, but I don’t think he ever quite made the leap. If he did, he never pulled himself all the way up to the next level to where he could stand confidently on it. More like he managed to grab it from time to time and fight like hell to stay connected, sometimes more successfully than others.
He accomplished a lot of good things, thanks in large part to his athleticism and his talented supporting cast, but he never seemed to take hold of a team the way great quarterbacks are expected to do.
The coaching staff spent the past two seasons developing him as the tip of the spear, but Pryor usually seemed to perform better as an ancillary part of the offense, and that was incongruous with the high expectations he had come to school with, expectations the coaching staff may have felt as much pressure to meet as did the player.
Pryor had the ability but not the consistency to lead the way as the focal point of the attack. Aside from the starts of the Rose and Sugar Bowls, Pryor often looked like he was trying to do too much when the game plan was built around him. Perhaps he was more worried about proving himself than simply moving the ball and scoring points, but the moment often looked too big for him.
The coaches had to preach patience with him and convince him to let the game come to him while his teammates did their jobs, but I’m not sure that message ever quite got through. If it did, he hadn’t figure out how to utilize it on a regular basis as of the last time we saw him in an Ohio State uniform.
Even his Sugar Bowl MVP performance was fraught with ups and downs, including a potentially disastrous fumble that instead resulted in a touchdown thanks to an alert Dane Sanzenbacher (who also went to the turf in the end zone to make a difficult catch of a low throw for one of Pryor’s touchdown passes).
Perhaps that impatience and inconsistency is also what undid Pryor off the field.
He came to Ohio State with the understanding that Tressel, Daniels and Siciliano could help him get to a place where profit awaits around every corner, but Pryor couldn’t wait until then to start cashing in on his abilities and accomplishments. As a result, he lost a last chance to make himself a valuable asset to the NFL…
There might still be an NFL quarterback trapped somewhere inside Terrelle Pryor, but at this point I’m not betting it ever sees the light of day.
Though his accuracy improved by leaps and bounds from his freshman year to the Sugar Bowl in January, his consistency still left something to be desired. And an entirely different level of accuracy is needed to complete passes in the NFL as opposed to college, where the windows are wider and stay open longer.
Pryor was almost unimaginably raw when he arrived, probably owing to same human nature that makes it hard to convince a talented slasher of why he should shoot 1,000 jump shots per day when he can just get to the basket for dunks whenever he feels like it.
That much is understandable, and I’ll admit to being interested to see how much better he can get, but recently I came to the realization there was really only one reason I maintained much optimism he would change much more as a passer from his junior to his senior season.
After seeing the transformation Troy Smith underwent from 2005 to ’06, I have been hard-pressed to rule out anyone’s ability to do the same. Smith had showed in 2004 he was a dangerous two-way threat when he carved up Michigan in one of the all-time greatest games in series history, but who thought he would ever be as dangerous from the pocket as he was on the run? I certainly didn’t think it possible for him to channel Drew Brees for 12 games, but he practically did while leading the Buckeyes to an undefeated 2006 regular season and an ill-fated berth in a national championship game fraught with all kinds of other issues for discussion on another day.
Anyway, the fact Smith did that weighed on my judgement of Pryor… until I realized that Smith is the exception to the rule for a reason. Why was a I so blown away by Smith’s transformation? Because I’ve never seen anything like it. With that still being the case, I’m not sure why I should find it altogether realistic that Pryor or anyone else would follow in his footsteps.
Smith’s NFL career to this point can be informative as well. Once he harnessed his cannon, Smith threw a cleaner, more accurate ball in college than Pryor did last season, but I still heard lack of accuracy as a knock on Smith last season when he got a shot to start for the 49ers.
Yet even if he could thread a needle with his passes, Pryor’s problems would still be plentiful.
His maturity is now rightly being questioned, and his decision making, while not terrible, has never really been the same since his freshman season ended and the staff entrusted him with more decisions to make.
It could be a matter of trying to get on top of the learning curve that was as steep as I have ever seen it for any quarterback, but Pryor never seemed to process things at the pace of the game. He could diagnose a situation, but not always before it had changed. And Tressel said on more than one occasion that adjusting to surprises was not a strong suit of his quarterback. That’s certainly not a good sign in making a projection for the NFL, where defenses seem to get more exotic by the year.
At the end of the day, it seems to me Terrelle Pryor is a complicated individual whom potential could still save, but to this point the “p” word has been more of an albatross. It’s gotten him into situations he has not always handled well, and now he’s facing challenges I’m sure he never envisioned when he ended his recruitment by signing with Ohio State a little more than three years ago.
He left Ohio State worse than he found it, and I’m not sure if he is much better off himself.
Former Iowa and NFL safety and current National Football Post writer Matt Bowen tweeted earlier this week he is down on Terrelle Pryor after watching three game tapes of the Ohio State quarterback.
Turns out he watched the Miami, Wisconsin and Iowa games, so it’s not hard to imagine he would come away with a negative opinion.
Pryor was erratic against Wisconsin and Iowa and had a handful of head-scratcher decisions and throws against the Hurricanes.
He admitted his numbers were terrible against Miami, although he rightly pointed out the Hurricanes’ defense was not the type a guy was going to have a highly efficient day with the way they pressed the Buckeye receivers. And he did complete a breathtaking deep ball to DeVier Posey that led to a touchdown, but I suspect an NFL scout is more worried about consistency than potential. Lots of guys can make throws here and there.
Pryor looked much smoother in the weeks after the Miami game, almost like a different player. He sliced up overmatched defenses from Ohio, Eastern Michigan and Indiana with precision passes and solid decisions (His injury sort of skewed things in the Illinois game), and it wasn’t a matter of those teams just falling all over themselves. He made his fair share of NFL quarterback reads and throws, delivering the ball smoothly and calmly all over the field.
Then he went to Wisconsin and seemed to let the situation overwhelm him. He never looked comfortable, as if the game was too big for him, and he sprayed the ball all over the place. After that, the coaching staff took the ball out of his hands for two weeks and the offense flourished behind the offensive line and tailback Dan Herron.
They tried to let him light it up against a subpar Penn State secondary but went back to the run to really do the winning damage in the second half.
He was up and down against Iowa, which was better than the Wisconsin game in that there were ups. Again I thought he was somewhat erratic (though several drops hurt), but he kept his wits about him down the stretch when he really needed to, so that was certainly a step forward from Wisconsin.
The bottom line is Pryor continues to be a project. Maybe it’s like a 30-something’s biological clock ticking, but we all seem to feel like the light has to have gone on by now if it is going to go on, that the ship has sailed on consistency from him. That’s silly, though. I never thought Troy Smith would put in a season in which he looked like Drew Brees until it actually happened, so there’s always time.
I still think the only position Pryor could play in the NFL is quarterback. I don’t think he has the foot quickness to play wide receiver, and he’s not physical enough to play tight end. Plus there are a lot of skills specific to those positions that he would have to spend time learning.
He has the physical tools to do the job, so eventually it will just come down to reps. He’ll either smooth out the inconsistencies in his delivery and continue to hone his decision making, or he’ll have to find another line of work.
And for what its worth, he’s much bigger with a better arm and more experience in a pro-style offense than the typical quarterbacks we’ve seen come out and move to another position such as Brad Smith or Antwaan Randle-El.
Also this week:
Spencer Hall pretty much sums up my thoughts on the great Iron Bowl Tree Massacre
There’s a thousand very stupid columns out there today about it and we’re not linking any of them, because this has no larger implications for society and especially not for Alabama, the state that wakes up 365 days a year crazier than a feral cat put into a running dryer. Like a syphilitic Lord Byron waking up craving opium and dirty women, they were mad yesterday, are mad today, and will be mad, bad, and dangerous to know tomorrow. If this part of the country weren’t full of at least seven states of similar insanity and decrepitude, it’d be a shame, but it’s kind of hard to pick the crazy one out of the lineup when they’re all pantless and ranting about the secret government wires in their head.
In summary: the rivalry is not out of hand, sports does not occupy too large a role in our lives, and everything remains as ghoulishly fascinating, horrifying, and magical as it was yesterday. Settle the fuck down.
He obviously has more first-hand contact with Alabama folks, so I’ll have to take his word on them, but I have to agree that this is not a sign sports is somehow creeping out of its little part of the world to ruin society.
Insane does as insane do, there are just more sad insane people than there were last week…
I like the dropkick idea (presume he means make it legal beyond the line of scrimmage again because it is still legal behind the LOS, just nobody does it because place kicks are more accurate), and I would go a step further.
Let’s outlaw pure kicking specialists. To be eligible to kick a point-after-try or a field goal, one must have been on the field on the previous play, so he must be competent at some other football skill. That would add some intrigue, wouldn’t it? Kicking is not so difficult that several of your best skill players couldn’t learn how to do it relatively consistently, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who finds it melodramatic when a kicker who was otherwise not really involved in the game comes in with the ability to decide the outcome.
I’m also a proponent of a weight limit. Shrink the linemen to 300 pounds or less and you would have more versatile players on both side of the ball, not to mention healthier players.
Mobile offensive linemen are more effective than bulky ones except for one thing: Defensive linemen in the NFL are so big they overwhelm the athletic advantages, and there are few enough NFL roster spots that those coaches can hold out for guys that are the size they want without sacrificing as much skill as coaches at any other level must (or they would be collecting them, too).
Bring in a weight limit and we could see the return to more cleverly designed blocking schemes of old: Traps and sweeps and other misdirection plays. Running would be easier, making play action more effective and opening up the door to more big plays down the field as opposed to the boring ball-control passing the game has been trending toward for quite a while…
To me it’s simple: Rich Rodriguez never fully embraced being a head coach; he always thought of himself as offensive coordinator
Makes a lot of sense considering the hair-brained way he seemed to approach everything else, from offseason work to defense to special teams, where no one seemed to ever quite have a handle on what they should be doing or how to do it…
The student section at the Schotrocks now, so that’s cool. I was there for the beginning of its long, slow death in the last days of the Jim O’Brien era. Amazing how they managed to move the students behind the benches after years of saying they had determined it was physically impossible because of the set up of the lower bowl…
And finally, the NYT on the death of the actor who played “Uncle Leo” on Seinfeld:
“Jerry! Hello!” Mr. Lesser, as Uncle Leo, would cry whenever he’d encounter his nephew in a social situation on “Seinfeld.” His greeting was usually accompanied by an elaborate palms-up gesture of welcome, and followed by a meandering digression of increasingly unbearable inconsequentiality..
Enjoy your Ohio State-Purdue basketball double-header today (Men on CBS at 1, women on ESPN2 at 5) and be sure to check out BuckeyeSports.com for recaps.
Yesterday at the Schottenstein Center, head coach Jim Tressel and athletics director Gene Smith were in the interesting position trying to defend their players’ intentions without condoning their actions.
They had to try to convince reporters and the public that although the overhaul of the compliance department that took place after the Maurice Clarett saga in 2002-03 has mostly yielded great success, it still allowed for this significant failure.
It’s sad that things are this complicated, but at the same time, it’s somewhat understandable. The NCAA often is demonized for its role in these matters, but the rules are in place for a reason. There is no wiggle room in allowing players to benefit – at least in a direct financial way – from their stardom because controlling from where the benefits come would be nearly impossible.
And it’s sad the players, the program and its fans are suffering because of a lack of explicit detail in the lessons from the compliance department, but I think it’s also fair to reason that they still should have known better. They must have been told they are prohibited from using their status as football players for profit, and since they received their rings and other items because they are football players, the correlation seems pretty clear.
I’m also dismayed but not surprised to see the continuation of the misinformed, misguided notion that the NCAA and schools are exploiting high-profile athletes.
Generally the worst fate that befalls the biggest stars is a deferred payday. The rest of the players – the great majority – are getting a pretty great deal in this whole thing.
As anyone who worked their way through school or is still paying off college loans can attest, a free education is nothing to scoff at. And scholarships come with much more than tuition checks. Players are fed at training tables and have access to world-class training facilities and equipment, not to mention a practically endless supply of academic help in the form of tutors and counselors. They get a living stipend, too. They get enough trinkets and gadgets from bowl trips that they don’t even know what to do with all of them.
Those benefits go to the starters and the bench-warmers, alike, so one could make the case the majority of players get more back from the university than their services provide.
Then those who do the most to uplift the school on its athletic fields will in most cases be able to cash in by the age of 23 in the form of big pro contracts. Many others will find the path to success in other professions also greased by the name they built up on the university’s dime, and odds are pretty good any player who choose to take advantage of the educational opportunities presented to him is going to be a lot better off when his career is over than if he would have spent those formative years eating and sleeping football in some kind of hypothetical minor league.
I am sure it is frustrating to see the school profit off of your likeness, but profitable likenesses don’t lose value overnight if you simply follow the rules. College kids in all kinds of fields can watch professionals performing the same tasks they’re practicing and look longingly at what might be them some day if they put in the work in the mean time, so I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the ones who get to play a game they love and receive plenty of love back.
Meanwhile, here are two other thoughts and links…
Regarding the players’ being allowed to play in the bowl game:
Having read the interpretation of the rule in the news release, I get why the players are allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl, but that still doesn’t mean it makes sense.
As I understand it, the option did not have to be accepted. They could have still had the players sit out. Surely they don’t think there’s a chance the penalties will be removed completely, so I see no justification from an Ohio State standpoint not to take advantage of the bowl game to get one game of the suspension out of the way.
Tressel has spoken more than once about the importance of being a good business partner when things like this arise, but I find this a lot more important than agreeing to play a game at night.
Even if that means the players still miss four games next season, how beneficial would be getting them back for the Michigan State game as opposed to not having them in East Lansing? I’d say there’s a significant difference. The appeal of that option grows even more if you consider the possibility of the suspensions being reduced to even three games. That would mean the players could return for the game at Miami (Fla.) in week three if they got one game out of the way in New Orleans.
This is purely speculation on my part, but this action leads me to wonder if the school is already thinking those players won’t be back in 2011 anyway since all who are out for multiple games are draft-eligible and probably draft-worthy, too. If that is the case, giving them a chance to showcase themselves one last time plus improve the school’s chance to pick up an image-improving win along the way makes some sense, but it also seems an unusual outcome for Tressel to go along with.
Regarding the punishment in general:
If four games is the going rate and they must miss another game for not reporting it in a timely fashion, I’d say the Buckeyes have been treated fairly.
But I do think 30 percent might not be a good standard to apply to all sports. Four games of a football season carry an awful lot more weight than even 10 games of a basketball season, for instance, especially if some of those contests are against also-rans on the preconference schedule.
I’ve seen comparisons made to the Cameron Newton situation, but I’m not sure how apt those are. For one, the Newton situation is ongoing. My understanding of what happened prior to the SEC Championship Game is Auburn declared him ineligible as a precaution when the allegations regarding his father and Mississippi State were confirmed and the NCAA reinstated him because it had no reason not to, at least not yet. In the process, they had to reveal that embarrassing loophole in the rules that prevent Newton from being punished for his father’s actions, at least the ones they have proven so far.
Dez Bryant complained on Twitter about his own season-ending ban last year, but again this is a completely different situation. Bryant got nailed for lying to NCAA investigators. That has to carry a heavy penalty because the organization’s lack of subpoena power. Was he treated fairly? By the letter of the law, yes, but I can see where one could argue the specific circumstances could have yielded a softening of the penalty when it was revealed why Bryant lied. That didn’t happen, however.
And some links:
Gene Smith referenced a fund that makes money available to players in hardship situations who need things outside of what is provided through their scholarship. The Lantern wrote an informative piece on that that ran in early December. Of particular note, OSU used money from the fund to help Abdallah family after Hurricane Katrina.
Smith said yesterday he hopes to beef up that fund and add more provisions for its use…