I was going to write a column for next month’s football preview issue of Buckeye Sports Bulletin with a request for Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel.
The plea? Let Terrelle Pryor be Terrelle Pryor.
Apparently there is no reason for that column to be written. During Big Ten Media Days in Chicago earlier this week, Tressel intimated that he prefers his mobile quarterback remain a little more stationary. According to the head coach, the reason is simple – survival.
“I’m not looking for my quarterback to act like a fullback,” Tressel said. “I’m not looking for my quarterback to get hit 20 times a game. I guess I’m talking about the old saying about discretion being the better part of valor. There’s a reason why the career of an NFL running back doesn’t last very long. The guy with the ball gets hit the hardest. I’m not looking for my quarterback to be the guy on our team that gets hit hardest the most times in a game.”
There is no doubt the coach has a salient point. After all, he doesn’t have 218 career victories and make upwards of $3.5 million because he doesn’t know the finer points of the game.
Still, Pryor seems like he could be one of those once-in-a-lifetime type quarterbacks. He threw for more than 4,300 yards in high school but he also ran for 4,200. He’s 6-6 and 235 pounds, and recently turned in a 40-yard dash time of 4.33 seconds – the fastest on the team. It seems only natural that you would want to allow a player of that caliber to unleash all of his God-given talents on the opposition.
Big, strong-armed quarterbacks with fast wheels also seem to fit the blueprint for national championships. Just think Vince Young (6-5, 233) or Tim Tebow (6-3, 235).
Young wasn’t a run-first quarterback when he led Texas to the title in 2005 and neither was Tebow when he guided Florida to last year’s title. Young threw for 3,036 yards and 26 TDs in ’05 while Tebow piled up 2,746 yards and 30 TDs last season. You have to be able to stand in the pocket for the majority of your plays to compile those kinds of numbers.
Still, the running game was a big gun in both quarterbacks’ arsenals. Young carried 155 times for 1,050 yards and 12 TDs during his team’s title run and Tebow added 673 yards and 12 TDs on 176 carries for the Gators last year.
Moreover, it wasn’t just the yardage. It was the fact that opposing defenses were forced to respect the possibility that Young or Tebow could take off at any time, making their passing attack that much more potent. Anyone knows the threat of a mobile quarterback can freeze linebackers and safeties, giving potential receivers that split-second they need to get open.
Looking at Pryor and expecting him to be another Young or Tebow, however, is the old apples-to-oranges comparison, according to Tressel.
“First of all, Terrelle is a lot different from Tebow,” the OSU coach said. “Terrelle is not a power runner. Secondly, you have to take what the defense gives you. You can’t design your offense around your quarterback running the ball all the time. You can sit there and say, ‘Well, Terrelle is that good and that fast, so he ought to always be able to get the yards we need.’ There’s a little more it than that. You have to have some balance. Hey, we all like ice cream cones but you can’t eat 15 of them. You have to have some balance.”
So what exactly how will Pryor’s role be defined?
“Our goal has always been to throw for 250 yards and run for 200 in every game, and that hasn’t changed,” Tressel said. “Our philosophy is that our receivers have the most touches in a game, then the running backs and then the quarterback. You attack with your receivers, then your running backs and the quarterbacks are the final part of that equation.”
Sound thinking, of course – in a perfect world. For Ohio State to achieve the goal of throwing for 250 yards and rushing for 200 in every game would make it imperative that the offensive line fired on all cylinders. We know that hasn’t been the case for at least the last couple of years, and that was largely with a veteran cast of characters. With new starters slotted at four positions – not to mention a left tackle spot still very much up for grabs – it seems somewhat of a gamble to rely so heavily on that unit.
Guess what else a running quarterback can do? Ease the pressure on an evolving offensive line.
Of course, we have seen this before and the results were pretty darned good – up to a point. Troy Smith had a run-first mentality for much of his career before turning into a pocket passer in 2006. That year, he broke several school records on his way to the Heisman Trophy.
Unfortunately, by the time the national championship game rolled around, Smith had apparently forgotten how to run the football. Had Smith tried to run straight at rather than away from the Florida defense, the complexion of that BCS title game might have been much different. Would the Buckeyes have won that night? That’s difficult to say but I think the game could have been and would have been much more competitive.
If Tressel insists upon Pryor staying in the pocket against USC, he will holster one of his main weapons in what many believe is a must-win game for his program. My only question: Why would he do that?
Today’s Buckeye birthday belongs to former Ohio State safety Sonny Gordon, who turns 44.
Denman Preston Gordon was born July 30, 1965, in Lynn, Mass., but grew up in Middletown, Ohio, where he was a high school football star for the Middies. He was a starter at the rover position from 1984-86 and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior in ’86. That season, he set career-highs with 94 tackles, seven interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Gordon was Cincinnati’s sixth-round selection in the 1987 NFL draft but never played with the Bengals. He signed with Tampa Bay and played seven games with the Buccaneers in ’87, his only season in the NFL. Following his playing career, Gordon entered private business and has been a longtime sales rep and territory manager for Columbus-based Worthington Industries.
Among the others celebrating birthdays this 30th day of July: H&R Block co-rounder Henry Bloch is 87; children’s television producer Sid Krofft is 80; Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is 75; blues guitarist/singer Buddy Guy is 73; firm director Peter Bogdanovich is 70; former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) is 69; singer/composer Paul Anka is 68; jazz saxophonist David Sanborn is 64; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is 62; law professor and ex-Clarence Thomas colleague Anita Hill is 53; former Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle is 52; former NBA center and current Phoenix Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright is 52; singer/songwriter Kate Bush is 51; country singer Neal McCoy is 51; two-time Olympic decathlon gold medalist Daley Thompson is 51; actor Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus in the “Matrix” trilogy and Dr. Raymond Langston in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”) is 48; actress Lisa Kudrow is 46; actor Simon Baker (Patrick Jane in “The Mentalist”) is 40; two-time Academy Award winning actress Hilary Swank is 35; actress Jaime Pressly (Joy Farrah Darville/Hickey/Turner in “My Name Is Earl) is 32; and British golfer Justin Rose is 29.
Also on this day in history: the city of Baghdad was founded in 762 while Baltimore, Md., followed in 1729; English novelist Emily Brontë is born in 1818; President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Act of 1965 into law, establishing Medicare and Medicaid, in 1965; Apollo 15 landed on the moon with the first Lunar Rover in 1971; Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa disappeared from a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., restaurant parking lot in 1975; the final old-style Volkswagen Beetle rolled off a Mexico assembly line in 2003; and Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh died in 2007.
AND FINALLY …
** It seems the U.S. Military Academy and the New York Yankees have forged a partnership. Army will play four games in the new facility over the next several years, including 2010 when the Black Knights host Notre Dame. Army will also take on Rutgers (2011), Air Force (2012) and Boston College (2014) in Yankee Stadium.
** Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald told reporters at Big Ten Media Day that the Wildcats continue to explore possibilities of playing one of their home games at Wrigley Field. Fitzgerald said, however, that his team would like to make a trip to Wrigley only a once-in-a-great-long-while thing.
** Congratulations to MLB umpire Joe West. When he works the Washington-Milwaukee game tonight, it will mark his 4,000th major league game. Only 14 other umpires have ever reached that milestone.
** I rarely agree with ESPN the Magazine columnist Rick Reilly, but he’s dead on with his assessment of Tiger Woods’ churlish behavior on the golf course. The world’s best golfer can be extremely engaging away from the course and very accessible when things go right. But the pursuit of 100-percent perfection in a game that almost never allows that sort of thing turns Woods into a profane, boorish lout. As I wrote some time ago, I have no doubt that Woods will ultimately break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. But if he continues to act the way he does in defeat, Woods will never surpass Nicklaus in terms of class. In fact, he’ll never ever come close.
** It’s difficult to criticize a guy on his birthday, but here goes anyway. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig must rule on the Pete Rose situation and he must do it now. Either he is in favor of reinstating Rose or he isn’t. He can no longer have it both ways. Either he’s going to listen to Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan and Mike Schmidt who are in favor of reinstating Rose, or he’s going to listen to Bob Feller, Stan Musial, Duke Snider and Bobby Doerr and keep Rose on the sidelines. Some criticize Selig for being unable to make the tough decisions. My criticism is that he doesn’t make any decision. His legacy is going to be boring interleague play, the ridiculous notion that the winner of the All-Star Game should dictate home-field advantage in the World Series and presiding over his sport’s biggest scandal in nearly a century. I only hope that when it comes time for Selig to be considered for the Hall of Fame, he joins Rose on the outside looking in.
** I’ve said it before, I said it again at Big Ten Media Days and I may as well say it here. If I had the choice (and I clearly do not), I’d take Charissa Thompson over Erin Andrews. Every day of the week.