So we have some blood in the water. ESPN pounced earlier today when they dialed up Pryor's former high school coach hoping to get a juicy quote to run with. The verdict: plenty of quotes, but only one or maybe two that really pack any punch. The most damning, offering that Ohio State could maybe make better use of his talents is now one of the biggest non-adultery related stories in the sporting world.
Yahoo!'s college football blogger, Matt Hinton of Doctor Saturday, quite possibly now addicted to the pageview gold that publishing disparaging notes about the Buckeyes can be, published his fourth Buckeye article in three days this week, essentially recapping the turmoil in town and offering up a curious assessment of his own:
Would Tressel set Pryor free as the most gifted runner on the field, a la Vince Young in his second year as a starter at Texas, when he guided the Longhorns to a Rose Bowl win in 2004 as a prelude to a perfect national championship run as a junior? Or would the Buckeyes continue to play their usual, close-to-the-sweatervest brand of conservative power running, "efficient" passing and field position?
The answer through the first half of the year -- against USC as well as Wisconsin and Purdue -- has clearly tended toward the latter, with the result that OSU ranks next-to-last in the Big Ten in total offense, Pryor's personal production has plummeted from his freshman campaign and the team has endured probably its worst loss of the nine-year-old Tressel era.
When Pryor hits the field Saturday against Minnesota, the Buckeyes are going to do what they've always done: Establish the run between the tackles, look for the occasional big play off play-action passes and studiously avoid anything that might do more harm than a solid punt.
Now we've always been huge fans of Hinton's writing -- dating back to his days at Sunday Morning Quarterback. He's as talented as they come and he's certainly correct about the love of the punt, but the part about power running against Wisconsin and Purdue and establishing the run between the tackles in the Minnesota game? If you've watched any Ohio State football in the last month, you know that's one thing the team has pretty much abandoned this season.
So the pundits are circling and Tressel is talking a lot but not really saying anything. What's the team to do? Why send out the beleaguered sophomore signal caller to meet with the media, of course. After Tuesday's practice session, a somber, reflective Pryor met with the media (video here) and pretty much came out and handled the situation as well as he possibly could have. Setting aside the point that we have to get all the hard information out of the QB instead of the coach, he offered the following gems:
“Last week, that opened me up to the world and opened me up to myself and who I am as a person. I think maybe that was the best thing to happen to us last week, maybe we’ll learn from it. We’re having real good practices, and we’re just trying to get the fans back on our side.”
“I just feel so relaxed. I think I’ve just been so tense and maybe handling things the wrong way, maybe talking to teammates not the way I should have, instead of being the leader that I want to be."
That, ladies and gentlemen, is called manning up.
Suppose it also didn't hurt that he was receiving advice from LeBron James and Jacory Harris during the week (what's the world coming to when sophs are mentoring other sophs). At any rate, he delivered to the press corps and will have a chance to back those words up Saturday. And the more this kind of spins into chaos and recriminations, I like our chances. Nothing will bring these youngsters together faster than the feeling of them against the world.