Pryor a difficult matchup for Penn State’s defense
Tom Bradley got as far as the letter S. He stopped when Terrelle Pryor signed with Ohio State.
When Bradley, the Penn State defensive coordinator, was recruiting the former Jeannette quarterback in 2008, he regularly stopped on Route 30 at the Park Classic Diner and started sampling each of its milkshake flavors, alphabetically.
“I kept that (place) in business,” said Bradley, who said he visited Pryor as many times as the NCAA allows. “Most of the people in there knew my name. I was up to strawberry banana when the recruiting ended.”
Penn State was so intent on trying to make Pryor its quarterback that it ignored others. That list includes West Scranton High School graduate Matt McGloin, who will start for the Nittany Lions on Saturday against Pryor and Ohio State in Columbus.
“A couple guys, including myself, weren’t getting offers,” said Matt McGloin, who ended up enrolling at Penn State as a walk-on. “Terrelle Pryor made things confusing for a lot of people.”
Pryor has become the face of Ohio State football (8-1, 4-1 and No. 8 in The Associated Press poll after finishing fifth last year). A three-year starter with a 27-4 record, Pryor has thrown for 5,402 yards and 50 touchdowns and run for another 1,873, with 17 scores. His total of 7,275 is second in Buckeyes history to Art Schlichter (8,850).
Bradley said he attended so many Jeannette football and basketball games and practices that, “I knew the whole offense. I would stand there and say, ‘I know that play. I know that play.’ ”
More importantly, he developed such a lasting friendship with Pryor that he received a text message from him, congratulating Penn State coach Joe Paterno on his 400th victory.
“If we didn’t play him,” Bradley said, “we could be better friends.”
Pryor said he chose Ohio State over Penn State because of his trust in Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel and his desire to matriculate to a big city.
“I would make this choice 100 times,” he said. “Nothing against Penn State.”
He called Bradley one of his “really good friends.”
But it’s Bradley’s job to find a way to slow Pryor, who is second in the Big Ten and fifth in the NCAA in passing efficiency (165.2) while rushing for 463 yards.
The problem: Those long arms.
Pryor, 6-foot-6, 233 pounds, is as strong as he is swift, and he uses his arms as weapons to ward off defenders.
“We need someone with (arms) the length of a broomstick,” Bradley said. “He has been using that forever. You have to drive through it and be aggressive in your tackles.”
Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti first encountered Pryor in the 2008 U.S. Army All-American Bowl when he was a star at Mandeville (La.) High School.
“There is a picture out there somewhere,” he said, laughing at the memory of getting rammed by a Pryor stiff-arm. “I never played against a kid like that.”
The other problem:
Pryor, a junior, has become a 67.6 percent pocket passer whose first choice — other than on designed runs — is a pass. He is smart and athletic and patient enough to wait for the third read to come open, without getting sacked.
“He doesn’t get caught with the ball as much,” Paterno said. “He’s a little tougher to get into tough situations.”
Bradley said Pryor will play quarterback in the NFL. Tressel and Pryor are willing to wait.
“I think he is becoming all we would hope,” Tressel said. “Will he become what we dreamedâ¢ I think we have a little more work to do before we find that out.”
Pryor could enter the NFL Draft after this season, but he said “probably not.”
“I am going to stay here until I break all the records,” he said.
More seriously, he added, “I just want to get my degree (in criminal justice) and finish off strong and maybe even have a better season next year, maybe no losses.”
He said the riches of the NFL aren’t his current priority.
“I think I just need to develop more knowledge as a human being and not worry about the money. I can suffer another year.
“I just want to grow a little older and know what to do when I do leave.”
As a freshman, Terrelle Pryor flourished largely on natural athletic ability, and Ohio State finished only ninth in the final AP poll.
In 2009, he became a more productive passer, remained a running threat and the Buckeyes were fifth in the poll.
This season, he continued to improve his passing accuracy, hitting 67.6 percent of his throws, while becoming an even more powerful runner.
Here are Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s statistics in two games against Penn State:
2008 (L, 13-6) : 16-25, 226 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT; 9 carries, 6 yards, 0 TDs
2009 (W, 24-7) : 8-17, 125 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs; 5 carries, 50 yards, 1 TD
Here is where Pryor stands among all-time Ohio State quarterbacks in passing and rushing:
1. Art Schlichter (1978-81): 7,547
2. Bobby Hoying (1992-1995): 7,232
3. Joe Germaine (1996-1998): 6,370
4. Greg Frey (1987-1990): 6,316
5. Steve Bellisari (1998-2001): 5,878
6. Troy Smith (2003-2006): 5,720
7. Mike Tomczak (1981-1984): 5,569
8. Pryor(2008- ): 5,402
1. Cornelius Greene(1973-75): 2,066
2. Pryor: 1,873
3. Rex Kern(1968-1970): 1,714
4. Schlichter: 1,303
5. Smith: 1,168