While the talk of Pryor has become more positive after his solid performance against Minnesota, he is not far from Buckeye Nation's wrath. With games against Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan upcoming, Pryor's mechanics and decision making are going to be under the microscope more than ever. It's obviously understandable that a player as hyped as Pryor was coming out of high school is dealing with very big expectations, but continued patience may be what the doctor ordered for fans.
First of all, one always has to put in perspective the learning curve for athletic quarterbacks. At both the college and pro level athletic quarterbacks blossom later than "pro-style" quarterbacks in their ability to throw the ball with consistency. At each step along the way, they face tougher defenses with more athletes. That means they can't just out athlete the opponent, they must also learn the X's and O's of the job. Pryor is in that transition right now. Last year the Buckeyes depended on Beanie and the running attack, while giving Pryor a basic offense. Now in year two, Pryor is dealing with the tough transition of learning the job rather than just being an athlete. The encouraging thing is that Pryor has the next four games plus two more years of eligibility to continue his learning.
The future is just that though, the future. What about this year? Well, a closer look at Pryor's statistics show he may not be as bad as we think when his numbers are put in perspective...
Overall the statistics between the two young men are pretty close. The differences come in turnovers and team performance. Tebow has done a better job of protecting the ball and his Gators are undefeated on the season (thanks in part to the SEC refs). I think looking at this is pretty encouraging. Yes the offense hasn't looked very great at times, yes Pryor needs to work his butt off on some small mechanics, and yes the Purdue game will be in our minds for a long time, but Pryor is on his way. Realistically, he is a few more completions and few less picks away from having identical stats with a guy who is towards the top of the Heisman race. Interesting!
The other encouraging sign is that Pryor has taken the criticism and coaching around him in stride. The Purdue loss could have handicapped him for the rest of the season, but Pryor took a hard look in the mirror and pointed the finger at himself. He didn't shy away from reporters or the fact that he had struggled, and decided to become a better leader and a more calm player. This is an incredible sign to me, and apparently it was for Adam Rittenberg too. He compared to Pryor to Tebow on this subject as well, and said this,
"I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that Pryor didn't shy away from the media like Tim Tebow did after a poor performance Saturday in a win (!) over Mississippi State. Pryor has received much more criticism in a year and a half than Tebow has in three-and-a-half seasons, but Pryor never dodged reporters after a game, no matter how poorly he played."
This much more humble and coachable Pryor is heading in the right direction, and so are the Buckeyes. He is rough around the edges, but has taken a step forward in his maturity and as a leader in the last several weeks. Even more importantly, his statistics are much more positive than many would believe. If he can fix the interceptions (mostly not trying to blow up like the Purdue game) and continue to tweak mechanics to complete more passes, he could easily be in the Heisman race over the next few years. Keep being patient folks, the best moments for No. 2 are yet to come!