Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks Terrelle Pryor has a more than legitimate shot at the 2009 Heisman Trophy.
The odds for college football's most prestigious individual award have started to be released and Pryor is gaining some respect on a lot of sites around the net. BetUs.com and Sportbet.com have Pryor fourth on their list at +800 and +700 respectively behind Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, and Colt McCoy, and other sites such as Gridironexperts.com give an easier-to-understand odds on Pryor (for those that don't understand the money line) winning the Heisman at 8:1 odds.
So Buckeye Nation is clearly not alone in seeing that LiC has the potential to be an absolute star at the college level, but the one thing that will be tough to convince the rest of the nation is why Pryor should win the Heisman Trophy over the three players unanimously ahead of him in all of the odds listing: Tebow, Bradford, and McCoy.
After much deliberation and tossing back and forth ideas with the rest of the 11W crew here is a list of five things Terrelle Pryor must do to win the 2009 Heisman Trophy:
1. Beat USC Every Heisman voter will be looking closely as to how the candidates perform against top notch teams and in big games. These voters will be even more skeptical when looking at Ohio State Heisman candidates in these situations, especially after how OSU's last Heisman winner performed in the MNC and the beating the Buckeyes' reputation has taken on the big stage since that awful night in Glendale.
This obviously brings us to September 12, 2009, where the Buckeyes will get a re-match against the Southern California Trojans in a prime time evening game in the Horseshoe. Not only will the Bucks be playing for revenge after an embarrassing 35-3 loss in The Coliseum last fall, but will also be looking to show the country that they are serious in their run for a National Championship this season. If the Buckeyes can surprise the world and beat the Trojans, you better believe Pryor will be a big part of that win and will vault himself right next to the three favorites at the top of the Heisman list. The USC game is a must-win for Terrelle if he wants to be invited to New York in December.
2. Put Up Nintendo Numbers Last season Tim Tebow threw for 2,746 yards and 30 touchdowns against just 4 interceptions while completing 64.4% of his passes. He also ran for 673 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Colt McCoy completed 76.7% of his passes while throwing for 3,859 yards and 34 touchdowns against just 8 interceptions. He ran for 561 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Sam Bradford, the winner, threw for 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns against 8 interceptions while completing 67.9% of his passes. He only ran for 47 yards on the ground, but did have 5 touchdowns with his legs.
The one thing these three 2008 Heisman finalists had in common were gaudy numbers. Terrelle Pryor is now "the guy" at Ohio State and with a full season under his belt, will be expected to put up similar numbers to Tim, Sam, and Colt if he expects to compete with them for the hardware. Pryor was very efficient in 2008, completing 60.6% of his passes for 1,311 yards and 13 scores against just 4 interceptions through the air. He ran for 631 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. He will have to triple his passing yards and double his touchdowns through the air in order to just be in the race at the end of the season and will have to rush for close to 1,000 yards and double-digit scores on the ground to get an edge on his three opponents in that category.
All of these things are possible, as Terrelle just started 10 games last season and now will be behind center from game one. He has now gone through a bowl practice, a spring practice, and has a full summer of film to study and help him progress to get to the level he needs to be at to win the Heisman in '09. This leads us to...
3. Read Through The Progressions Quicker While arm strength and endurance can be worked on in the weight room, learning the mental part of the game does not come as easy. Numerous hours in the dorm room breaking down the playbook, days spent watching film, daily team meetings, and a quick learning curve are just some of the things Pryor will need to become a complete player at the quarterback position for Jim Tressel's offense. Troy Smith showed in 2005 that he could be good based on talent alone, but during the regular season in 2006 he showed what could be done once the entire offense was mastered by his mind.
Last season Terrelle did a lot of good things for the Buckeyes, but one thing that he clearly needed to work on was going through his progressions quicker and checking down off his first and second options on passing plays. This year, as he gets more comfortable with Ray Small, DeVier Posey, Dane Sanzenbacher, and the other receivers on the team, he will be expected to make the best decision whether the play goes according to plan or breaks down in front of him. This even includes using the tight end (we have those at Ohio State? I thought that was just a sixth offensive lineman), which has not been a position featured too frequently in Jim Tressel's tenure at OSU, but has some quality talent in Jake Ballard and the newly-transitioned Jake Stoneburner.
Pryor also needs to read through progressions quicker so that he can make a decision of whether to take off and run or stay in the backfield and try to pass. It seemed that earlier in the season he was more apt to run, maybe even too early at times, but as the season went on he tried to stay in the pocket and pass the ball, at times staying there too long and taking unwarranted sacks. Terrelle is a tremendously gifted athlete and if he can learn to read coverages and run through his progressions quicker, he will be able to take full advantage of both his ability to pass and run on any given play.
The physical talent is there and the arm development and physical maturity is coming along nicely. It will be up to Terrelle Pryor to improve his mental capacity of the game so that he can play at a faster level and make the best decisions possible when a play breaks down and does not go according to plan. If he can accomplish these things, his numbers will in turn improve and it will make both #1 and #2 more likely to happen.
4. Be A Leader Both By Example and Vocally While there were games last year where you clearly saw Pryor lead by example (see: here), there were certainly moments where TP was shy to vocalize leadership. Taking over for senior captain Todd Boeckman could not have made things any easier for a freshman that already had high expectations on his shoulders and there is no question Pryor did not want to be as loud as he could have been at times.
This year is different as the Buckeyes are a younger squad and the locker room is fully belonging to Pryor. In 2009 Pryor needs to continue to be a leader by example on the field like he was in the Wisconsin game and Penn State game before the fumble, while being able to be a vocal leader that can rile the troops up when needed as well. Both of these things come with the job of being the quarterback at Ohio State and come with maturing as a person off the field.
While Terrelle is only a 19 year old sophomore-to-be he will be asked to grow up quite quickly both on and off of the field. Once again, if he is able to do this, his Heisman candidacy and the National Championship hopes of the Buckeyes will look better and better.
5. Put Ohio State In National Championship Contention We can't ask for too much, but a chance, just a chance, to play in the National Championship game in Pasadena is what we can ask for. The Heisman Trophy voting occurs before the bowl season and Pryor will not even be invited to the ceremony as a finalist if OSU is not successful this season. If Pryor and the Buckeyes take care of business against USC and steps 2-4 on this list happen, there is a good chance that the Bucks will indeed be playing for the MNC in early January or will at worst still be in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl, meaning that Terrelle has done his job and deserves to be considered with McCory, Tebow, and Bradford for the Heisman.
If Pryor can somehow do all five things on this list, I feel he will be able to edge the three favorites and win the Heisman Trophy, becoming the second true sophomore ever to do so, and more importantly protecting Archie Griffin as the only two-time winner of the award. The sky is the limit for Terrelle Pryor and it will be up to him and the rest of the Ohio State Buckeyes to determine his Heisman Trophy fate in 2009.
And just to get you pumped up.......