The Continuing Story of Terrelle Pryor

By Jake on January 26, 2011 at 1:00p

Please welcome our newest writer, Jake, to the fold. His football knowledge is top-notch and as a bonus, he's promised to uphold our fine tradition of publishing at least one typo per article. You can follow his antics outside of 11W on Twitter.

The Terrelle Pryor narrative has to be one of the most baggage-filled in the sport. For every high there is a corresponding low, often embarrassing to the team and head-scratching to the fans. Yet for all of the petty scandals that seem to waft from Pryor like particularly bad B.O., he’s also an electrifying and beautiful player to watch on the field and a consistently good student in school. ESPN has never had it so well. Yet lost in the predominant chatter surrounding Pryor is the monumental shift that the Ohio State offense underwent this past season. Despite all of the sturm und drang from both the press and the message-board warriors, this past season has possibly witnessed the best offense of the Tressel era.

To step back a bit, it was Bill Walsh who developed the ubiquitous "West Coast Offense" while an assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals. It emphasizes the short passing game, or passing to set up the run. Ideally, Walsh tried to get a large lead in the first half by passing the ball and setting up long runs off of both draws and sweeps by shifty runningbacks with good hands. In the second half, he would pound the ball against a tired defense to run out the clock. In terms of personnel, the WCO is usually as old-school as it gets: two wide receivers, one tight end, and two runningbacks. Most importantly, everyone eligible is a receiver, from the star wideout to the fullback.

In truth, the system is more of a philosophy than a set of explicit instructions. Look short rather than long, quick passes rather than long bombs, yards after the catch rather than highlight reel grabs, and so on. In this sense, last season had Ohio State shift unmistakably toward Bill Walsh and Andy Reid. Virtually any semblance of the spread that had crept into the playbook seemed completely excised. The #3 WR, Corey Brown, had a mere 8 catches, tied with #3 HB Jordan Hall. Gone were the 4 and 5-wide sets of the Troy Smith era. Instead, our tight ends and runningbacks hauled in over 40% of the catches, a huge departure from the past. In fact, in 2006 Troy Smith threw to his receivers over 80% of the time, leaving Pittman&Co. as glorified blockers in the passing game.

Throwing to your runningbacks and tight ends can be a symptom of a seriously dysfunctional passing game as often as it's the sign of a nascent Steve Young making plays, however. 2004 was the last time a quarterback threw nearly so much to non-wide receivers, and no one would claim that as an example to emulate. The difference is in the results, and in the players. Zwick/Smith were an unholy Frankenstein-monster, more dangerous to their own team than to the opposition. Barely completing 50% of their passes and throwing only 14 touchdowns, they hit their runningbacks and tight ends so much because they hit their wide receivers so little. 

By contrast, Terrelle Pryor hit 65% of his passes and threw 27 touchdowns. Both approach Troy Smith's Heisman numbers in 2006 (65.5% and 30 TDs). Pryor exceeds Smith in total yards by 230, a full game's worth, while only attempting 12 more passes. Channeling his inner Steve Young, Pryor ran for over 750 yards and 4 touchdowns, 550 yards and 3 touchdowns more than Troy. He totaled 3545 Total Yards and 32 touchdowns, an Ohio State record. The 2010 Offense outgained the 2006 Offense in both rushing and passing, and outscored it as well (on the strength of, oddly, field goals). 

That is the tragedy of Terrelle Pryor. For all of the good that he's done the focus is always on the bad: his immature comments, his recruiting process, his tattoos. We get, at most, nine more games with the Jeanette, PA phenom. Rather than dwell on the negatives, pining for Braxton Miller before he's even set foot on campus, I think we should revel in the positives. In his time here he's broken records, won a hell of a lot of games, and generally been the most exciting QB to ever wear the scarlet and gray. Before his career even began, his decision to go to Columbus helped RichRod's career get off on the right foot. He told Kirk Herbstriet to stow it. If nothing else he's been entertaining, and I can't wait to see what he'll do in 2011.


Comments Show All Comments

Buckeye Black's picture

Couldn't agree more.  I posted earlier he only needs 26 total TD's for 100 career touchdowns, but after thinking about it he actually needs 24 because he has two receiving TD's.  Like him or not, he is the best QB in Ohio State history.

thePhilipJFry's picture

Thanks Jake, well done, I appreciated the breakdown of completions by position.

Joe Beale's picture

You have to love any sports-related article that uses the phrase "sturm und drang".  Nicely done, Jake.

The_Lurker's picture

Pryor gets a lot of unfair scrutiny from Buckeye Nation (and beyond). If he was a 3-star recruit that no one really knew, he'd be held in much higher regard, I think. Since he was the most sought-after QB prospect in the land, people take these already gaudy numbers and think they are merely "OK," like he should somehow be rushing for 2,000 yards and passing for 6,000 yards and 45 touchdowns. I think we can all agree that Troy Smith's Heisman season was un-freakin-believable, so why not Pryor's 2010 season?

Sanzy got the team's MVP award, and I won't take anything away from him, but let's be real, we don't beat Iowa without TP. We don't beat Arkansas without TP. We don't get through the first part of the season before the running game started clicking without TP. We don't beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl last year without TP. Pryor has been a special player for us. Immature, sure, but even he admits he needs to work on that, and that's something. I look for even more growth out of him his senior campaign.

The_Lurker's picture

Oh, and WELCOME JAKE! :)

Irricoir's picture

Great reply.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

The Stanley Jackson 5's picture

Well done Jake..........

builderofcoalitions's picture

Wow, a balanced look at Terrelle Pryor. That's hard to find/do. Usually, it's all bad or all good. This certainly puts his accomplishments on the field into perspective. The other stat he could have over Smith is wins versus Michigan. They're tied at three. Of course, a win this year will only equal the number of gold pants Smith has.

Because we couldn't go for three.

Colin's picture

All I know is I'm not looking forward to the times in the future when I see our QB get destroyed in the backfield and I miss TP, that wouldve never happened with him.

btalbert25's picture

I love TP, I always have, and I've defended him quite a bit, but I will not say he's the greatest Ohio State QB.  Troy was a better QB.  That's not to say when it's all said and done TP won't be, but I can't imagine a scenario where TP has reached the level of 2006 Troy Smith.  Stats aren't that far apart, but they also don't tell the whole story. And, INT's aren't really being mentioned.  

It's not to say he won't, and for what it's worth I think Pryor is a much better leader than people give him credit for, but he's just not as rock solid as Troy was that season.  You never worried when Troy had the ball in his hands.  I continue to think and believe that's the TP we'll see whenever he takes the field next year, but Troy was a once in a generation type of QB.  TP is a once in a life time talent,I hope next year he can make the jump to once in a lifetime QB.

All told though, he's probably going to have a 4-0 record against Michigan, 4 Big 10 titles, 4BCS games and possibly 3 wins.  A chance still for a Title, and he got Ohio State's SEC monkey off their back.  You definitely can't deny that Ohio State probably doesn't hit these achievements with Boeckman or Bauserman at the helm.  

TLB's picture

Nicely done Jake.

Stats don't always tell the whole story.  I think if I had to choose between Pryor and Smith I would choose Smith for the intangible leadership quality I am still waiting to see from TP.

Now, if I had to choose the best QB in the history of the program, I'd probably go with Schlichter.

Jake's picture

Schlicter certainly wins most enduring scandal. 

Germaine is also in the discussion for best QB in tOSU history.

The_Lurker's picture

Brings up an interesting discussion point - best OSU QBs ever. Schlichter was my first Buckeye hero post-Archie and it crushed me to find out about his gambling issues and subsequent run-ins with the law. But even though I was young, I recognize that he wasn't very careful with the football. Threw tons of picks. As did Greg Frey, Bobby Hoying and Mike Tomczak. Smith and TP are definitely in the best QB discussion, along with Schlichter, Germaine, Karsatos, Cornelius Greene and Rex Kern (the latter two in much different offenses).

Jake's picture

Kern was a magician with the ball, but it's really difficult to compare option QBs with passing QBs. Still, no one could hide the ball better than Sexy Rexy.

Jake's picture

Incidently, one area where Troy Smith greatly exceeded Pryor was in the play-action fake. Smith was pretty old school in his hand-off skills.

The_Lurker's picture

Yup, and his ball fake skills, combined with the power of the OSU running attack, set up some beautiful deep passing plays.

SLVRBLLTS's picture

I still think 2006 was the best offense we have had in the Tressel era.

"Because we couldn't go for three"

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

TP has definately been unfairly scrutinized his whole career. And if you consider the amount of really bad ish that went on durinf his tenure at tOSU (USC and Can Newton just to name a few) and he was still top of the headlines for much less significant stuff. Oh, and welcome aboard Santonio Bro-mes!

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

Denny's picture

Jake have you ever eaten a horse. It's a question that we need to know about new writers ever since that whole weird thing with the horses [via Johnny Finn].


Jake's picture

Not to my knowledge, no. I do eat a lot of chinese food, though, so you can never be sure.

btalbert25's picture

That's mostly Cat and Rat.  If you eat JTM frozen meat products you've likely had horse lol.

Scarlet Buckeye's picture

That is one of the best TP articles I have ever read. To think about how much scrutiny this kid takes and he still takes the field and performs is rather outstanding. It disappoints me to see so many OSU fans on his back as they have bought into the media attention and expectations on Pryor. 

He won't be a Heisman winner next year because he's so good at handing the ball off and dispersing the ball. While he does account for most of the OSU offense, I think when he's playing well and making great decisions, he elevates his team to perform better. Is that not leadership?


Anyone that Tells pretty Boy Herbstreit to "stow it" and points out that he never beat Michigan is alright in my book.  Herbie has used his national profile to make all kinds of accusations/statements about TP.  Pryor handled it so well and was spot on with his "Fake Buckeye" comment and did well to point out that he has beat Michigan every time he has tried while Herbie.... well, not so much.  I for one will miss him when he leaves and Oregon, and Arkansas learned that even with a month to prepare--you really cant prepare for Pryor.

Qujo's picture

Very good article. I likke many get frustrated with TP's sometimes immaturity but you can't deny his talent and I think it would be good for the national media to realize it as well...


Go Bucks!

Our arch rivals.... 11 National Championships, 10 before 1949 - eight of eleven shared. Trying to respect them... trying.... Ugh!

Neilwoodgables's picture

I have been arguing with my father that despite his off the field antics he is the best QB to ever play at the OSU. I cant wait until next season.

I Hate Michigan.



misterbulbous's picture

Great points. I have to admit, I envisioned a colossal trainwreck resulting between the marriage of Tressel's conservatism and Pryor's transition to quarterback. So many bad things could have happened with the offensive direction but the end result has been refreshing. I still feel I'll have a sigh of relief when Pryor moves on but I won't forget the same "doomed" feeling I get when Pryor leaves a game.

gwalther's picture

Tressel is only conservative when he needs to be. In 2005 and 2006 with Troy Smith, not conservative. When Todd Boeckman was his quarterback or TP was giving the ball away 5 times in a game, conservative. As TP has improved, less conservative again. The "Tressel is conservative" label is fallacious.


Totally agree about the doomed/sigh of relief dichotomy though. Haha.

Class of 2008

gwalther's picture

I watched the team this year and I watched the team in 2006; I can't buy the thesis that this year's offense was "possibly...the best offense of the Tressel era."


Unfortunately real-life is getting in the way of extended replies on Being a grown-up can suck sometimes.

Class of 2008

Kurt's picture

Jake, welcome.  Do you think that TP is a good fit in a WCO?  Could he really ever have the arm of Steve Young? 

You mention that any semblance of spread seemed excised.  I agree, and I think that's the problem.  But don't you think that when the offense would run spread it actually worked?!  Take for example the drive in the 1st half of the Sugar Bowl that ended in a missed FG.  All spread zone-read looks (until the final 3 plays which forced the FG attempt), and the offense was like a hot-knife through butter.

Jake's picture

Well, Terrelle Pryor is certainly no Steve Young, but then again nobody is. And Ohio State didn't run a true West Coast Offense. No one in college does. It's far too complex and requires obsessive amounts of practice which would lead to an NCAA violation. Instead, Ohio State implemented a lot of WCO concepts, like emphasizing the short passing game and using your runningbacks as primary receivers. In some ways this is similar to the spread, since the spread largely borrowed these concepts from the WCO. The difference is that the OSU offense largely used pro-style personnel packages, most of Pryor's runs came off of scrambles, and Ohio State mostly used a man-blocking scheme instead of a zone blocking scheme. 

ERIC OSU's picture

...and then there was one gentlemen (and ladies of course). San Diego St goes down to the BYU Fredette's 58-71. GO BUCKS!!!

gravey's picture

GO Buckeyes!   Welcome aboard Jake.  This really is "the Ohio State" of sports blogs.  Your first effort was first rate.  Thanks.


Here's a link with a bit of love for our Bucks in the LA Times:

Were the best of the decade.  Suck it SEC.,0,5109597.story

Natty Light's picture

lettuce be reality, TP is > troy. 

Troy had San Antonio Holmes: mid 1st rounder, Superbowl MVP, Ginn, 7th overall who despite his lack of recieving skills was a huge threat, Gonzo, 31st pick, Roy Hall: 5th rounder, and young Robiskie and Hartline. 

TP has Sanz, Posey, with freshman Duron Carter and Corey Brown as his # 3 each year? 


as a Jr troy might have been a little better at making reads, but how many times is TP pressured in the pocket that Troy would have gotten sacked or thrown away.  how many more defenders does he outrun than troy?