Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Will Terrelle Pryor Change OSU's Perception Problem?

If you're anything like me, you cringed with every preseason Terrelle Pryor/Vince Young comparison. For one, regardless of what the scouting wizards were telling us, it wasn't a given that Pryor was physically as gifted as Young. More importantly, Young was the best player on a national championship team, and placing that on an 18-year-old's shoulders is nothing short of lunacy.

As it turns out, Pryor is the spittin' image of Young. From the unrefined throwing motion to the graceful strides past hopeless DBs, the on-field similarities are striking. Actually, Pryor the true freshman is light years ahead of Young the redshirt freshman in the passing department. But anyway, that's not really the point here.

The funny thing about the Terrelle Pryor/Vince Young comparison is that it has potential to go far beyond their identical athletic ability.

Fair or unfair - and let's face it, it's more fair than we'd like to admit - Ohio State is dealing with a perception issue that was unfathomable as recently as November, 2006. Too soft, too slow, can't win the big one, blah, blah, blah. We've been bombarded by them and they're not going away any time soon. Unless, of course, Terrelle Pryor does for Ohio State what Vince Young did for Texas.

You might forget this now, but the Texas Longhorns were something of a joke for the first four years years of the 21st century. Mack Brown routinely dominated the recruiting game by scooping up the likes of Chris Simms, Roy Williams, Derrick Johnson, Nathan Vasher, etc., but the results never matched the talent. Oklahoma embarrassed them every year (including a 63-14 drubbing) and it seemed like Texas would never get over the hump. Nobody folded like the 'Horns on the national stage, and everybody assumed it would be that way for the rest of eternity (or at least as long as Mack Brown was the coach).

Enter Vince Young.

By the time Texas hit full stride during the 2005 season, you rarely heard mentions of choking. Vince Young, almost single-handedly, washed all of that away with his dynamic play and A+ charisma. When they went into big games, nobody expected a four-interception meltdown (ala Chris Simms); they expected--and received--a show out of the game's best duel-threat quarterback.

Terrelle Pryor is capable of having precisely the same effect. And again, this isn't about his remarkable skill set, as Pryor will win plenty of games on athleticism alone. This is about forcing your personality on teammates, both young and old, and expecting them to play their absolute best. The trick, however, is having the personality to demand such things out of your comrades - simply being a brilliant athlete won't be enough to clean up the mini-mess in Columbus right now. Is Pryor the right man for this task? It might be the end of the decade before we're given a definitive answer, but I don't see an ounce of false bravado in Pryor, and it's looking more and more that we'll forget "USC 35, OSU 3" sooner than we ever imagined.

One other thing: Maybe I over-analyze the Buckeyes too much, but I look at the picture above, with Pryor pumping up the veteran-laden defense, and I can't help but think that Todd Boeckman - a 24-year-old sixth-year senior - would never even try such a thing. You either have it or you don't.

It's safe to say I'm excited for the Terrelle Pryor era.

-Brad Spieser (Brad@TwinKilling.com)