Freshman Monday: One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

Buckeye CommentarySenior Analyst IOctober 6, 2008

For all the recent discussion by the coaches about playing the best players and that every position being up for grabs, first-year Buckeyes - wide receivers and offensive lineman, specifically – actually saw very limited time on Saturday night. That was probably to be expected, but it still flew contrary to the recent talk of insiders and outsiders alike.

While that may be seen as a small step backwards in the development of the freshman class in general, the two giant steps in experience taken by Pryor in Madison more than offset the above-mentioned collective shuffle backwards. Forget for a second that Pryor actually led Ohio State 80 yards on 12 plays for the winning score. Forget that he had his most pedestrian outing as a starter to date. The opportunity to have the experience of leading that drive, in that environment is worth more than any increased reps for all other freshman combined. He is the leader of this team – now and in the future – and each time he faces a tough situation he will come out a better football player. The fact that they won is gravy.

In the world of upsets and adversity that has become college football, every success is shadowed by a potential struggle. The Dispatch’s Bob Hunter thinks those two concepts are related. Hunter suggests that Pryor’s greatest challenge of the season may be handling his success. Just like Hunter, Tressel, and countless teammates say, Pryor seems wise beyond his years, on and off the field. If he is handling media outings and crucial late game drives with deft aplomb, there is no reason to believe that he will not handle his personal success in any other manner.

At this point, you may need to reach through the computer and rip the scarlet-colored glasses from my eyes, but Pryor’s success seems different from any other recent player success. Even Troy Smith, Pryor’s closet Ohio State player comparison, did not have this aura about him. I used to say that the best adjective to describe Troy’s play on the field (and occasional decisions off) was “unnerving.” You never knew what was going to happen and he always seemed on the edge of chaos but he never went over. I get a different feeling watching Pryor – his off-field demeanor is calm and calculated. Troy evaded looming rushers with a whirling spin, followed almost immediately by a laser throw downfield (see, Penn State and Michigan, 2006). For Pryor, he seems simply glides to one side and continues looking downfield. Here’s hoping he continues to take that smooth approach, both personally and athletically.