Who needs Terrelle Pryor?
By Pete Fiutak
Updated: February 8, 2008, 12:15 PM EST
If you're a sports fan, unless you've been stuck in some "drab" UCLA pysch ward, or have blown all your time and energy on trying to win the Florida Republican Primary, you've heard the name Terrelle Pryor.
No, he's not the guy who caught the ball on his head to help facilitate the biggest Super Bowl gag job of all-time. He's this year's greatest college football prospect in the history of the universe, able to single-handedly bring three national championships (before he turns pro, of course) and three Heismans, along with oodles of school spirit and warm fuzzies to make a bunch of rather goofy people very, very happy.
OK, fine, so I'm one of those silly people who really does care about where Pryor chooses to pursue his academic interests, and if you're even a slightly casual college football fan, you should, too.
High school phenoms are always hit or miss as far as living up to the hype, with some, like Vince Young, turning into a transcendent performer who can elevate a program to greatness, and others, like Ronald Curry, who turn out to be no big whoop.
Depending on who you listen to on a given day, Pryor is somewhere in between the two. That's saying something considering Curry, who famously ditched Virginia to play football and basketball for North Carolina from 1998 to 2001 with moderate success (while some dog lover named Vick, who was from the same area as Curry, lit up the college football world like a Christmas tree), was one of the greatest prospects of all time.
Yes, Pryor is that big a deal and he's expected to become one of the rare players who can change the college football landscape all by himself.
His measurables and high school resume are ridiculous. He's 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, runs a 4.4 40, ran for 1,901 yards 36 touchdowns and threw for 1,790 yards and 23 scores while leading Jeannette High in Pennsylvania to a 16-0 record and a state title, and he also played a little defense. Unlike Young when he first went to Texas, Pryor has a polished throwing arm to go along with his speed and quickness, and while he's a basketball star like Curry was, his millions will be coming on the gridiron, and he knows it.
Of course, when you're a big-time, next-level talent, to quote the great Billy Squier, everybody wants you, but it's been relatively clear from the start of the courtship of Mr. Pryor that the schools in the running have been kept to a relative minimum.
LSU got a chance to throw a pitch his way, but Pryor never had much interest in being a part of a Les Miles "damn good football team." Pryor's smart enough to have given thought to a place like Duke, where he would've focused mainly on basketball, but that never happened.
At this point, there are four schools in the running to get the signature: Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and Penn State. And they're all holding their collective breath. While some services have other high school players rated higher, Pryor is the crown jewel of the 2008 recruiting season.
Pryor chose to take a step back, analyze his overall situation, and make his decision in a few days rather than pick a place to go on National Signing Day this past Wednesday. All that did was generate even more of a buzz, and now here's what's at stake for the four schools still fighting for the star.
Need For TP Level: Red Alert.
Pryor is the absolute perfect fit for the Rich Rodriguez offense, and sort of like Rudy Guiliani in the Sunshine State, the new Wolverine head man is putting all his eggs in one basket. Michigan doesn't have a quarterback right now. No, that's not just being flippant; Michigan has no realistic starting quarterback option at the moment. Chad Henne graduated and Ryan Mallett, the star of last year's recruiting class, and a drop-back, pro-style bomber, left for Arkansas. Justin Feagin was recruited to be either a safety or a receiver, but he's also becoming the insurance policy at quarterback in case Pryor goes elsewhere.
It's not an overstatement to call this one signing the make-or-break moment for the first three years of the new Rodriquez era. He'll put together a successful offense in time, but Pryor makes Michigan dangerous from opening day.
Possibility Of Getting TP: 30 percent.
It makes sense, like Tim Tebow playing for Urban Meyer at Florida was the perfect marriage. For good and bad, the pressure on Pryor right away would be enormous. If you thought Jimmy Clausen had expectations in his first year at Notre Dame, that was nothing compared to the Pryor-mania that would hit Ann Arbor. If Pryor wants to be a signature star from Day 1, Michigan is the place.
Need For TP Level: Some, but the Buckeyes can survive just nicely without him.
Pryor is a bigger, faster Troy Smith with the idea being to turn him into an all-around NFL weapon. Unlike Michigan, where the knock on the Rich Rodriguez offense is its inability, at least lately, of making a quarterback next-level ready (although there wasn't a slew of NFL talent at quarterback in Morgantown), Pryor will have NFL receivers to throw to in an offense tailored around using all his talents. He'd throw more in Columbus than he would in Ann Arbor.
While he would be heralded as the next Troy Smith, and with some seeing the situation potentially like Vince Young in Austin, when he took an elite Texas team over the top, the pressure wouldn't be on right away. Current starter Todd Boeckman isn't going to lose his job this year, and while Pryor would likely get a few snaps here and there, he won't have to be the man. Ohio State is good enough to play for the national title no matter what, but having Pryor around would add a dangerous element.
Possibility Of Getting TP: 35 percent.
The situation is ready-made for Pryor to step in and succeed. He can get his feet wet, keep the pressure off, and ease his way into superstardom. Even though the Michigan offense suits his talents better in the short term, there's still work to be done around him. It'll take at least two years before Rodriguez has all his guys in place where he wants them, while Ohio State is already a national-title-level juggernaut that simply needs a final piece of the puzzle.
Need For TP Level: Moderate.
There was a time in the late 1990s when Virginia Tech turned itself into a player by getting more of the NFL-caliber recruits. Few thought Michael Vick would turn into Michael Vick, but Kevin Jones was a huge coup when it came to helping the program become big-time. The same goes for Oregon now. It had some success in the past, but this has hardly been a consistent powerhouse. Instead, it's been known more for collapsing, like it did last year, the Oklahoma replay game fiasco, and for its goofy uniforms, than it has for doing anything big on the field.
However, the emergence of Dennis Dixon as the slam-dunk winner for the Heisman before tearing up his knee, and a big first 2/3 of 2007, has started to change that. If Pryor chooses Oregon, all of a sudden, Mike Bellotti's program, which came up with a whopper of a recruiting class anyway, can legitimately think about being a national-title contender on a consistent basis. If nothing else, recruit Darron Thomas out of Houston isn't bad for a backup plan.
Possibility Of Getting TP: 20 percent.
Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State are scared out of their socks at the thought of Pryor visiting Eugene. Once Oregon gets a player on the lot, the car is all but sold. Nike's Phil Knight has turned the Oregon facilities into the Shangri-La of college athletics with a juice bar and a waterfall just a few of the amenities in a setting more suited to the Sultan of Brunei than a bunch of teenagers who can run fast and lift things.
Need For TP Level: Huge.
If you're looking for a succession plan in Happy Valley, this would be it. Florida State already knows Jimbo Fisher will take over when Bobby Bowden is through, and other schools, like Purdue and Kentucky, are doing the same. Now many are wondering what will happen when Joe Paterno finally decides he's done.
Getting Pryor would bridge the gap between eras and assure Penn State wouldn't dip even with the coaching uncertainty. Future recruits might not know who they'll be playing for when they end their careers, but they'll know they'll have a star under center.
The Nittany Lions are already starting to make a bit of a switch from the statue quarterback era of Anthony Morelli to the more mobile Darryl Clark, and had tremendous success once the light went on for the strong running Michael Robinson a few years ago. Having Pryor would take the program, and the offense, to another level with one of the nation's best receiving corps to work with from Day 1, to go along with a strong defense to take the pressure off the O.
Possibility Of Getting TP: 15 percent.
The pressure on Pryor to stay close to home has gotten more and more intense, and those close to the situation have said the longer the issue takes to be decided, the better the chance the Nittany Lions have. The problem is recent history. The program came up with a shocker a few years ago getting everyone's top receiver, Derrick Williams, and he's been nothing short of mediocre. While JoePa has played young players more and more, everyone knows how much experience is valued by the program. Pryor would buck a trend.
So where's Pryor going to go? Even he doesn't seem to have any real clue at the moment, and all four programs believe they have an equal shot. When all is said and done, I think he'll go to Ohio State, but that's a mere guess.
Welcome to the world of hinging your fall Saturday hopes and dreams on the whim of a teenager.