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March 22, 2008
Roundtable: Instant impact for Pryor?
At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for their opinion about a specific topic from the past week in college football.
TODAY'S QUESTION: Now that Terrelle Pryor has made his college choice, what kind of impact can he have this fall on the field?
Three years ago, Ryan Perrilloux, one of the country's most heralded quarterback prospects, signed with LSU and made bold statements about winning the Heisman Trophy. This, despite the fact quarterback JaMarcus Russell - who would become the first player selected in the 2007 NFL Draft - was on the Tigers' roster.
Instead of winning the Heisman, Perrilloux has yet to take over the starting role. However, he should assume the starting duties when he returns from a suspension.
But this really isn't intended to be a knock on Perrilloux. Rather, it's an example of how difficult it is for even the best quarterback prospects to take over starting roles as freshmen in college, much less excel.
That's why I wouldn't expect too much from Pryor this fall. He joins an Ohio State team that has the talent to contend for the national championship in 2008 and returns senior quarterback Todd Boeckman.
Pryor undoubtedly is more physically gifted than Boeckman, but it takes more than talent to be a championship collegiate quarterback. I would expect Ohio State coach Jim Tressel to bring Pryor along slowly and use him in specific circumstances, just as Florida's Urban Meyer did in 2006 with Tim Tebow.
That is, if he uses him at all. Pryor could sit out as a redshirt, as did several other highly rated quarterback prospects such as Vince Young, Mark Sanchez and, yes, Perrilloux.
Todd Boeckman, meet the Tim Tebow to your Chris Leak. No one borrows ideas quite like college football coaches, and Ohio State had a front-row seat for how dangerous a properly executed quarterback rotation can be. Florida's Leak-Tebow combination helped beat the Buckeyes 41-14 in the 2006 national championship game. Now, look for Jim Tressel to borrow that idea with the steady Boeckman and the athletic but inexperienced Pryor.
Tressel has two weapons at his disposal, but has several options ahead of him. Should he call Urban Meyer, who used Tebow as a glorified quarterback during his freshman year? Or should he call Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, who rotated junior Sean Glennon and freshman Tyrod Taylor last year? Or maybe Mark Richt, who subbed backup D.J. Shockley every third series for veteran David Greene? The big question will be if Tressel can keep both happy and keep his team from taking sides if things don't go well early (that date with USC in Los Angeles in Week Three will be a good test).
If Pryor is as good as everyone says, it's hard to imagine him not playing as a reserve this season – much as Tim Tebow did in 2006 at Florida.
Pryor obviously is a better athlete than incumbent starting quarterback Todd Boeckman, and good coaches make good use of guys with special athletic talent. But to expect Pryor to come in and be a star from Day One at quarterback is folly. He can be an important backup – important enough to help Ohio State in key situations. Look for some kind of "Pryor package" to be installed early in fall drills.
Illinois-Missouri in St. Louis: This should be an annual event. Fans bases for both live in and around St. Louis. It could be the college event of the season. Too bad you couldn't double-up and play the Illinois-Mizzou basketball game the night before in St, Louis, too.
North Carolina-South Carolina in Charlotte: Again, a lot of fans from both schools can make the easy trek to Charlotte, and it would be the college football event of the season in the area, blowing away the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Pryor could have made a much greater impact as a true freshman if he had signed with Michigan, where he would have arrived on campus with a legitimate shot of opening his college career as the Wolverines' starting quarterback.
But just because he won't start at Ohio State doesn't mean he's going to get redshirted.
Todd Boeckman remains the clear choice as Ohio State's starting quarterback after leading the Buckeyes to the BCS Championship Game last season, but it wouldn't surprise me if Pryor gets plenty of meaningful minutes this fall. His size and mobility could give Ohio State's offense a new dimension if he fills in for Boeckman for about a dozen snaps per game.
Each of the past two seasons, Ohio State has lost the championship game to a team that used two quarterbacks. Florida's combination of Chris Leak and Tim Tebow flustered the Buckeyes two years ago. LSU's tandem of Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux knocked out Ohio State last season. Perhaps Ohio State finally can get over the hump by employing its own two-quarterback system.