Terrelle Pryor: Why He'll Lose the Sugar Bowl For Ohio State

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Terrelle Pryor: Why He'll Lose the Sugar Bowl For Ohio State
David Purdy/Getty Images

Terrelle Pryor, the ultra-athletic and supremely gifted quarterback from Ohio State, is not what many of us thought he would be.

Considered by many services to be the nation’s No. 1 recruit coming out of high school in 2008, Pryor was supposed to be held in such high regard by now that only a thin tier separated him from Archie Griffin in Buckeye lore.

Instead, what Ohio State fans have gotten is a cross-breed spawned by quarterbacks of yesteryear, with the arm of a Joe Germaine and the legs of Troy Smith.

Pryor’s pledge to Jim Tressel—however halfhearted it may seem—is the reason why he won’t declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. But his shortcomings as a quarterback, particularly throwing the ball, should ensure he sees no higher than the third or fourth round in 2012.

They’ll also be the reason why Ohio State loses the Sugar Bowl to Arkansas.

That and the fact Pryor has yet to assert himself as a team leader. But more on that later.

The casual observer can discern that Pryor isn’t exactly textbook in his mechanics. Analysts claim his throwing motion and footwork are in dire need of improvement, which may be part of the reason Pryor is so content with leaving the pocket, sometimes much too early.

To his credit, Pryor has skated by on an uncanny ability to throw on the run, which is a testament his immense talent. But the numbers this season indicate Pryor becomes less effective when his team needs him most.

According to www.cfbstats.com, after holding steady in the first quarter and then spiking in the second, Pryor’s passing numbers begin to decline in the third quarter before absolutely plummeting in the all-important fourth.

In quarters one and two, Pryor has completed 65 percent of his passes this season for 1,816 yards, including 1,040 in the second quarter alone, and 20 touchdowns versus only six interceptions.

Pryor’s completion percentage rises to 75.4 in the third, but his yardage total drops, as does his touchdown-to-interception ratio, from better than 3:1 to 1.5:1.

The fourth quarter is especially telling.

In the final 15 minutes of games, Pryor has thrown for only 228 yards and two scores against three picks. Granted, the sample size of six games is considerably smaller, but that tells me the numbers Pryor left on the field by checking out of games that were blowouts against inferior competition are tempered by his struggles against opponents of a higher caliber.

And the disturbing pattern adheres to his rushing numbers as well. When Pryor decides to tuck and run, which may be considered the most dangerous facet of the Ohio State offense, he gains 9.5 yards per carry in the first quarter. That number is reduced by more than five yards in the fourth.

Again, the sample size is smaller, but the results indicate Pryor has less room to roam against teams with athletes as good as, if not better, than Ohio State’s.

That said, what if Tuesday night’s showdown at the Louisiana Superdome comes down to the waning moments of the game or a two-minute drill? Will these stats prove to be meaningless, with Pryor leading his team to a late, rousing victory?

He did it on a crucial 4th-down play in a 20-17 over then-No. 20 Iowa, but ultimately came up just short when the top-ranked Buckeyes’ backs were against the wall at Wisconsin.

What happens now when Ohio State goes to a neutral site to face an opponent from the SEC, against which OSU is 0-9 in bowl games? Especially Arkansas, which has the highest-ranked defense Ohio State will have faced this season outside of Wisconsin and Iowa.

OSU fans will scowl and call me names, asserting that as a fan of the Big 12, I am unqualified to make such claims about a player with whom I am not terribly familiar. And if the Buckeyes win, I will gladly eat the crow placed in front of me.

But one doesn’t need to have his or her ear to the heartbeat of the Ohio State program to know that Pryor has his flaws, including a lack of leadership.

Which will also come into to play against Arkansas.

And, yes, I’m referring to Pryor’s indiscretions of nearly two years ago, which just now have been discovered and made punishable by the NCAA.

The five-game suspension is unfitting of the crime, but despite the NCAA’s hypocrisy and Pryor’s age at the time, he knew the rules, despite what his says to the contrary.

But the part that bugs me the most—and should raise the most concern with Buckeye fans—is the blasé attitude and nonchalant coolness with which Pryor has taken the whole incident and subsequent suspension in stride.

"It's been two years (since the incidents), so I already knew what I shouldn't have done two years ago that I know now,” Pryor said recently. “To tell you the truth, I already knew what I shouldn't have done two years ago. I'm grown now, and I wouldn't make the same decisions."

There’s plenty of room in that statement for more remorse. And it sounds like an explanation horribly mundane for a player whose electric skills and ability to excite were supposed to have provided at least one crystal football by now.

But maybe Pryor just isn’t going to ever be that type of player.

His numbers certainly suggest he won’t.  And his darkest hour off the field wasn’t much help.

That’s why if Ohio State loses the Sugar Bowl, he’ll be to blame.

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