There's a quarterback controversy at Ohio State, just in time for the game of the year.
It's not your generic speculation-fest about who is starting, although that might become an issue later this season. It's about how much Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor is going to play Saturday against No. 1 USC. Seen as the quarterback of the future, the freshman super-recruit might have to be the quarterback of right now.
|Terrelle Pryor has seen little action thus far, but that could change in L.A. (US Presswire)|
What about Beanie Wells, you ask? What about him? To the locked-in Trojans defense Beanie is a conventional weapon for the Buckeyes, whether coming off an injury or not. Currently third nationally in rush defense, the Trojans have finished in the top 10 in five of the last six seasons (No. 1 in 2003 and 2004).
What's another stud running back to a defense that picks them out of their teeth? The dual-threat Pryor is an unguided missile, a mystery, a human X-file.
"When you have a weapon (like that) we're going to use him no matter what," Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis said.
Follow the logic: Wells might or might not play. Even if he does, Beanie might not be 100 percent. Quarterback Todd Boeckman is coming off an uneven performance against Ohio. The last time he faced a defense this good, things did not go well. Boeckman was sacked five times and threw two interceptions against LSU in the BCS title game.
|10/26/40||at Cornell||L, 21-7|
|11/22/47||at Michigan||L, 21-0|
|10/6/51||Michigan State||L, 24-20|
|10/15/66||Michigan State||L, 11-8|
|1/1/73||Southern California||L, 42-13|
|10/29/94||at Penn State||L, 63-14|
|11/22/97||at Michigan||L, 20-14|
|1/3/03||Miami (Fla.)||W, 31-24 (OT)|
There are those who think Pryor, the nation's No. 1 prep player last season, is merely keeping the seat on the bench warm for Boeckman. Pryor's high school coach, Ray Reitz, believes Pryor will be the starter by the end of the season. Jeannette (Pa.) High quarterbacks coach Roy Hall spoke to Pryor on Sunday night, trying to determine if the kid would play more against USC.
"Put it this way, it would be my opinion I would think he would," Hall said. "Believe me, I know that has to put Coach Tressel in a tough position. I'm sure he can he handle it. You hear other people say they don't want to cause a quarterback controversy."
There is little controversy if you win, but Ohio State hasn't won enough for some. There is already the SEC stigma that is the subject of every fan message board from the Sun Belt to the Rust Belt. It doesn't need to fly 2,000 miles to prove that an immobile 6-foot-5 pocket passer (Boeckman) can get beat up by the Trojans. The much-celebrated Human X-File has the admiration of his teammates, if not the playing time from the coaches.
"It wasn't easy for him to come in here and gain our respect," defensive back Malcolm Jenkins said of Pryor. "He was going to have to earn our respect. At first he didn't expect that. Once the summer was over he understood why we made him prove his worth. ... He has been accepted with open arms."
The pollsters seem ready to pounce on an Ohio State loss. The Buckeyes looked uninspired against Ohio and Boeckman was uneven at best. They have dropped from preseason No. 2 in the Associated Press poll (1,506 points, 21 first-place votes) to No. 4 (1,347 points, one first-place vote). That after winning their first two games by a combined 55 points.
|1. Southern California||60|
|3t. Boise State||56|
|6. Ohio State||55|
"The only thing I see that Boeckman has over Terrelle is the experience and a little bit of the reads. Terrelle is a competitor," Hall said. "They've lost that (title) game the last two years. If Terrelle can help them get over that hump, I don't think Coach Tressel will hesitate."
After getting 22 plays in the first game against Youngstown State, Pryor saw action in only two series (eight plays) against Ohio. Here are some possible reasons why:
1. Tressel didn't trust a freshman at quarterback during a tight game.
Maybe, but that was a heck of a gamble. Tressel was losing with a senior at quarterback. While Saturday's performance had a lot to do with an unmotivated offensive line and dropped passes, Boeckman didn't exactly lead by example. Pryor can create plays with his feet. Why not give him a shot?
2. There was a preparation issue. In other words, Pryor wasn't ready because he doesn't know the offense.
Not likely. The Kremlin is more forthcoming with information than Ohio State football is in 2008. But you'd think something would leak out if Pryor was becoming a bad seed or a slacker in practice. It has been just the opposite. Teammates seem to have taken to him and he is working hard.
The crowd at the season opener gave Pryor a standing ovation.
"It gave me chills," said Hall, who was at the game.
3. Tressel is saving Pryor for USC.
Which QB gives Ohio State its best chance of defeating No. 1 USC?
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The less known about Pryor on the West Coast, the better. USC did have the added advantage during its bye week of sizing up Ohio State. The Trojans saw only those eight plays.
"When Pryor's in, it's runs for him and quarterback draws," USC linebacker Rey Maualuga told the Los Angeles Times. "We're going to have a big emphasis about which quarterback is in."
The transition -- if and when it comes this season -- won't cause upheaval. Pryor has earned his place on the team, chatting up Boeckman for advice, working hard in the weight room, going through the mental hazing from upperclassmen.
It's obvious, though, that Terrelle Pryor's time is soon. The question is, will it be Saturday?