Under center on Sundays? Just maybe! (Terry Gilliam/Associated Press)
Drew Thurman (4:03 pm)
If someone would have asked this question in December of last year, they may have been lynched for being an idiot. Pryor was coming off of two games against Iowa and Michigan where he threw for 160 yards collectively, only having 67 against TSUN.
His decision-making was questionable, his mechanics looked inconsistent, and most importantly his confidence had hit rock bottom.
All of that would change in a defining performance in the Rose Bowl against Oregon.
He completed 23 of 37 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also added 72 yards on the ground. This stat line has changed his image and reputation, and now experts and fans alike have once again risen the expectations of what Pryor can accomplish.
Amazing what one game can to do!
The question is: can he ever do enough to be an NFL quarterback?
Unfortunately for Pryor, history may not be on his side.
Recent draftees with Pryor's skill set haven't been shown much respect, as NFL teams don't seem to be that interested in dual-threat quarterbacks. Guys like Pat White (2nd round) and Dennis Dixon (5th round) have never been able to translate their playmaking ability to the next level as starters.
White for instance, is nothing more than a glorified running back in Miami's "Wildcat Offense." A lot of this can be credited to NFL GM's being burned by dual-threat quarterbacks never living up to the hype.
Guys like JaMarcus Russell have shown great skills athletically, but inconsistent passing tendencies in the NFL have quickly exposed their ability to play quarterback.
The one guy that seems to have really beat the system is Vince Young. He was drafted third in the 2006 draft, and has proven he is a winner. He had a minor speed bump that sidelined him behind Kerry Collins, but outside of that Young has been pretty impressive. His stats aren't mind blowing, but Vince has shown time and time again that he knows how to win games. Interesting enough, Pryor has been compared to Vince Young more than any other player out there.
Pryor has a long way to go to imitate Young though. While his first two years, statistically speaking, are better that Vince's, he has a lot to prove in year three. Young took a huge leap forward in his junior season, throwing for 3,036 with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions to go along with 1,050 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Not only that, but he won a National Championship which majorly increased his draft stock.
Like Young, scouts are going to be looking for some major improvements from Pryor in his junior season. First, you can count on them expecting better decision making skills. Pryor is never going to be the next Drew Brees or Peyton Manning in terms on efficiency, but there will be expectations on him to raise his "Football IQ" from last year. What does that mean? Well for starters, less sacks and less balls thrown to the bad guys. When the dust settles at the end of this year, a lot of focus will be on that touchdown to interception ratio.
Second, Pryor has to start making the easy throws look easy. His biggest weakness is completing quick slants and out routes. He has shown great abilities when he can set his feet and throw long or look across the middle, but the more basic throws (that require solid mechanics) are very inconsistent. To play quarterback on the next level, his mechanics and timing on these throws needs to greatly improve.
With all that said, does Pryor have anything going for him?
Well, actually, his does.
Not only does his freakish athletic ability and physical size intrigue everyone, but Tressel's system may pay off in the end.
As Jemele Hill of ESPN suggested , it has been a rocky road for Pryor thus far, but it may pay off in the end. The comparison she makes is to Tebow, who had a system completely molded to fit his strengths. The problem is that the system didn't actually help Tebow get better for the NFL, even though it made him a legend in college football.
Unlike Pryor, Tebow's toughest days could be ahead of him in the NFL. Well, that is if Pryor continues to improve.
There is hope that Pryor could finally become the player all had hoped he would be, and become an NFL quarterback.
Tressel didn't give into the temptation to make Pryor into a runner or a spread option quarterback. He along with the staff have fought to turn Pryor into what he longs to be, a true quarterback.
Now I'm not suggesting that Tressel has a great offensive system or that there haven't been moments when Pryor was the things aforementioned, but what I am saying is that they have tried to mold him into something greater. It's not just about winning, the staff is pushing Pryor to be a quarterback that can make it on the next level. On the surface level, it appears as if they will two more years to make him even better!
So, is Pryor going to be an NFL quarterback?
I think so. I'm not sure he is going to win a Super Bowl or even start for that matter, but the guy is going to get drafted to play QB.
If the Rose Bowl was any indication of the future, who knows what he is capable of over the next two years. Pryor could just beat the system as Vince Young did in 2006!