Yesterday the Big Ten released a list of the 33 football players that will accompany their coaches to the conference's Kickoff Luncheon August 2nd and 3rd in Chicago. Standouts from John Clay to Evan Royster were on the list, even Purdue's Robert Marve, a transfer from Miami that has yet to play a down in the league. But that wasn't news. What was news was that Jim Tressel opted to leave Terrelle Pryor at home, causing a media meltdown unseen since the NFL announced that the 2014 Super Bowl would be held in New York City.
Every Heisman winner in the history of the conference, from Archie to Troy, has appeared at the event, but the player thought to be the Big Ten's best bet to capture the award this year (with all due respect to Mr. Clay) will be in the 614 while his coach and teammates meet with an army of reporters at McCormick Place.
The big absence is Ohio State starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, although his omission won't surprise anyone who has covered the Buckeyes. Yes, yes, I know head coach Jim Tressel brings seniors or captains to Big Ten media days every year, so spare me the e-mails. But we're talking about a three-year starting quarterback and the reigning Rose Bowl MVP. Ohio State's continued sheltering of Pryor is not shocking, but disappointing. It's time we heard more from a guy who has led the offense onto the field for the better part of the past three seasons.
Clearly these guys are frustrated and one can't really blame them. Pryor is entering his third season as a starter, fresh off a Rose Bowl MVP performance and will be piloting a team many expect to contend for the national championship this season. Though he has had some high profile stumbles in front of the press in the past, most notably after sporting Mike Vick eye black in the opener against Navy last season and then following it up with a curious-at-best statement in defense of the beleaguered NFL quarterback, but he seemed to learn from that mistake and parroted Tressel in interviews after subsequent games leading up to two long sessions before the Rose Bowl, where he performed well in front of the media.
Those of us familiar with the workings of The Vest weren't really surprised with yesterday's news. Tressel prefers to take seniors to the annual event. Indeed, since 2004, 20 players have made the trip to Chicago and only two of them were juniors -- Marcus Freeman and Vernon Gholston in 2007, but they were redshirt juniors. The media spotlight will be on blast in Pryor's direction all season long and this is probably just Tressel's way of attempting to keep his quarterback humble.
So while I understand the move to keep Pryor at home, what's really unfortunate is that the three seniors making the trip, Cameron Heyward, Dane Sanzenbacher, and Bryant Browning, all worthy in their own right, will likely be bombarded with questions about their star quarterback.
Meanwhile, in other Pryor-related news, word surfaced that Penn State coach Joe Paterno has not visited a prospect on the recruiting trail since he met with the Jeannette prospect in 2008. The Nittany Lions overcame Paterno's lack of travel last year, signing a pretty stellar class, but three verbals (Ohio State has 17) in Paterno's pocket so far this season is leading to full-on panic mode in State College (and cackles just about everywhere else).