Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor has finally made it official and will not be returning to college football in 2011. Rather, if an NFL team will have him, he’ll make an early leap to football’s biggest stage.
The question is, does he have what it takes to make it on a roster as a quarterback, or will he have to switch positions? Possibly just as important, does he even have the fundamentals to play another position?
We take a close look at his pro prospects, but first tackle the NCAA allegations that forced him to leave college and chase the pros.
For most Ohio State football fans, the end of the Jim Tressel era is somewhat heartbreaking. On the flip-side, for most Ohio State football fans, the end of the Terrelle Pryor era is uplifting, and exciting.
Over the course of the last seven months, Terrelle Pryor has been the focal point of the investigation with a scandal involving exchanging Ohio State memorabilia for tattoo work, among other items. While the media has been focused on Jim Tressel’s lies to the NCAA, and most recently his “resignation,” we’re starting to see more and more just how big a role that highly touted quarterback Terrelle Pryor has played in this entire mess.
It all started right before Christmas of 2010, when allegations surrounded five Buckeye athletes related to selling or exchanging items in which they earned on the field for tattoo and cash primarily at a local parlor on the west side of Columbus. These items mostly included Big Ten Championship rings and the gold pants trinket that are awarded to each Buckeye player after a victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
After the story broke all over the media, Terrelle Pryor tweeted “I paid for my tattoos. GoBucks.”
Unfortunately for Pryor, it only took a few days to realize that he, in fact, did not pay for his tattoos—quite the opposite. Not only was he receiving free tattoos, but he was receiving substantial amounts of cash. The NCAA forced Pryor to pay back $2,500 for selling the three items that they knew about at the time: a 2008 Fiesta Bowl Sportsmanship Award, a 2008 Big Ten Championship ring and a gold pants trinket.
But more information has come out, even since Jim Tressel’s resignation. It’s been released that Pryor is linked to selling/exchanging more than 20 items, ranging from autographs shoulder pads, all the way to helmets, rings, jerseys and just about anything else you can find in an equipment room.
When asked about how Pryor came about the merchandise he allegedly stated “I get whatever I want.”
But there’s more. The latest allegations have to do with Pryor receiving even more improper benefits, so that the NCAA has felt it necessary to start up an individual investigation on Pryor alone. Pryor has been seen driving numerous cars around campus, most recently a coal black Nissan 350z, which ranges between $16,000 and $27,000. Aaron Kniffen is the culprit who has been accused of cutting deals with Buckeye athletes and families, and is currently being investigated by the NCAA and Ohio State University.
Kniffen claims that despite having numerous signed memorabilia throughout his office, none of it is related to giving any sort of improper benefits to any player, and that he gives the same deals to the players that he would to any regular customer that comes through the door. Kniffen, as well as two other car dealers, have claimed that any player transaction has been cleared through the NCAA’s compliance department, and that every transaction was legal.
The kicker is that Terrelle Pryor has had a suspended license since February of 2011, yet was seen, most recently, as of the end of May, driving throughout Columbus. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has mentioned that Pryor can bring forth proper documentation to get the suspension lifted, but that he has not done so to this day. They are looking for Pryor to show proof of insurance in order for him to drive legally.
With all of the allegations and investigation by the NCAA and the Ohio State University surrounding Terrelle Pryor, the main thought is that he will enter the Supplemental Draft in July, and avoid his senior season with the Buckeyes, in which he is already suspended for the first five games as it is.
According to NFL sources, there are very few, if any organizations that would be willing to use anything higher than a third or fourth round selection to acquire Pryor.
There’s no doubt that Terrelle Pryor is a special and gifted athlete. He was Jim Tressel’s highest ranking recruit in 25 years of football coaching, and was thought to make an immediate impact that could take the NCAA by storm.
Recruited as a quarterback, Pryor came in and garnered plenty of attention from local and national media. He received playing time as a freshman after incumbent starter Todd Boeckman went down with minor injuries, most notably against Penn State.
Unfortunately for Pryor, he’s not an NFL quarterback. His best position in the NFL would be as a wide receiver, or maybe even bulking up as a pure receiving tight end.
As a quarterback, Pryor’s ability to make plays with his feet is perhaps his greatest feature. His 6’6", 233 pound frame is intimidating, and he uses his long strides to make plays on the ground, escaping pressure in the pocket and picking up numerous first downs.
The problem is that’s about the only great attribute he has as a quarterback. His arm strength is weak, he lobs the football more often than not, and has been consistently bailed out by his receivers who have a knack for coming up with the tough passes in traffic.
Pryor’s ability to read a defense is very poor, and his first instinct has been to run with the football as soon as he feels any sort of pressure. He fails to succeed at stepping up in the pocket and lacks ideal touch on short-intermediate passes.
His footwork is less than adequate. Pryor makes many off-balanced throws, many of which come off of his back foot. He will often push the ball forward and try to make a throw with just his arm, rather than following through with the football.
The comparisons to Vince Young came immediately for Pryor. The players share the same collegiate build, as well as play making ability, especially with the use of their feet. But Young had a stronger arm at Texas than Pryor has shown with the Buckeyes. We’ve seen Young struggle in the NFL, despite having better passing tools, and that doesn’t seem to bode well for Pryor.
Pryor is an athlete. He’s a player with a lot of physical potential that has yet to be tapped into, but his intangibles, or lack thereof, will keep him from being what he’s capable of.
Now that we’ve decided that he’s not an NFL quarterback, then we have to find a position in which he may be able to excel at, which is probably going to be wide receiver.
Pryor has a receiver build. Being 6’6" and having good weight to match his long strides to run down field is a huge plus for Pryor. He also has big hands, and he was utilized a couple times at Ohio State as a receiver—most notably when he caught a five yard touchdown lob from Todd Boeckman in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl.
Pryor was also a basketball player at Jeannette High School, which he had to make a decision to pursue that career or one in football. His basketball scouting report mentions that to add to his height, he has an outstanding leaping ability and vertical jump.
When you put all of his physical tools together everything matches to be a productive pass catcher in the NFL. All of the ability is there, but the next question is whether or not Pryor has the intangibles to make the transition to the NFL as a wide receiver or even a tight end.
He’ll have to learn how to run crisp routes, make tough catches in traffic, and learn to make precise cuts on his routes. While he has good speed, it isn’t in the sub 4.50 forty yard dash range. Pryor’s speed is likely closer to 4.55-5.59, which is still exceptional considering his 233 pound frame.
The next issue is his attitude and ego, which are things that really could hinder his NFL performance. It’s no secret that Pryor thinks very highly of himself, but at times he seems to believe that he is above the program of which to whom he is a part of. If he’s not willing to learn and improve at the next level, he could have a problem being coached up.
Still, 32 teams will have an ability to use one of their 2012 NFL Draft picks on Pryor in the Supplemental Draft, assuming he enters. While it’s likely clear to most NFL organizations that he’s not a quarterback, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be a team out there willing to use a third round selection on a player with his skill set. I see a fourth or fifth round selection being used for Pryor by a team, once the lockout ends, as a mid-round grade for him as an athlete is a fair grade overall considering his ability.
Pryor could have a bright future for himself in the NFL. He’ll need to mature and let the coaching staff work with him to become exceptional, and that could end up being the toughest task for Terrelle Pryor.
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