August 16, 2010

Tressel's 'trust' in Pryor key for offense

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel didn't necessarily need to come out and say it, but he did anyway.

"I think your play calling is based first and foremost on what you think your guys can do," Tressel said. "Is trust a factor? Absolutely."

His offensive play calling is entirely based on what he trusts his offense - most notably his quarterback - to do effectively and consistently. And it is possible that Tressel lost some of that trust down the stretch of the regular season last year.

Though Tressel is always committed to running effectively first, regardless of who the quarterback is, the Buckeyes turned to that portion of their game the most in the final three matchups of the season last year.

Those three games against Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan - the toughest stretch on Ohio State's schedule - Terrelle Pryor threw only 17 pass attempts per game in what looked alike an attempt to minimize the young quarterback's mistakes.

The offense looked rather reserved since the mid-season upset loss at Purdue, a game in which Pryor turned it over four times by himself, but Tressel won't look at that game is the turning point in his shift in offensive philosophy.

Ohio State won the remainder of its games after the loss to the Boilermakers, and the team did it on solid defense and mistake-free offensive play calling before winning the Big Ten Conference and heading to the Rose Bowl.

But that's where everything changed.

Despite the fact that Ohio State threw the ball only an average of 24 times per game last year, Tressel unleashed his quarterback in the Rose Bowl. Pryor attempted 37 passes, a career high, for 266 yards and two touchdowns before being named the game's MVP.

In a game where Pryor was finally allowed to go out and make plays, with caution seemingly thrown into the win, he had perhaps the most impressive game of his young career. Now, Tressel said he could throw 30 times a game or more this season.

"I would imagine he'll throw more this coming season than he did last season," Tressel said of Pryor at the Big Ten Media Luncheon in Chicago. "I doubt if we'll throw it 60 (times a game), but I think he'll be one of those guys where we're at a 25 or 30 pass team and have the kind of balance we'd love to have."

It was apparently during bowl preparation where the light came on for Pryor.

Tressel explained that Pryor didn't have the proper learning curve as a freshman because he found himself in the starting lineup early his freshman season, but big blocks of practice without a game really makes a difference in the quarterback's development.

"You know, the hard part about trying to get better is that you get thrust into that week-by-week game planning," Tressel said. "So now here he was as a freshman coming in, all of a sudden he had to learn what we call things, and then-boom-each week he's in there playing instead of just learning fundamentally. So you never really get to build on your own growth.

"When we got to bowl practice, now he had experienced really two seasons," Tressel continued. "He had five weeks, or whatever that period was. Could really evaluate himself, study himself, study them. Really have a knowledge, much more deeply ingrained. I think what everyone saw, it's not unusual because every time he's had a concentrated period."

The expectations now for Pryor have gone through the roof. Having already been named the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, Pryor's name is also consistently mentioned on pre-season Heisman Trophy watch lists.

The expectation is that Ohio State will continue to throw the ball like it did in the Rose Bowl now that Pryor has gained Tressel's trust.

But more importantly, Pryor seems to have gained that trust in himself, not only as an athlete, but also as a quarterback.

"Last year I was kind of confused with some of the offense and was also trying to learn some of the defense," Pryor said. "Now we can finally get it together. I am not saying I am perfect and I know everything, but I know I can hold my own in the meeting room with my coach."

Pryor's throwing motion has improved during the off-season and he mentioned he had been working on a release that came more over the top.

While Pryor still has to prove he can avoid the turnover, he expects the offense to be exponentially better in 2010, a year in which the Buckeyes are considered one of the favorites to make a trip to the BCS National Championship game.

"We got creative last year, too, but we were young," Pryor said. "That's not an excuse anymore. We have to put things together and make it work. It is not the coaches, it is us. We need to make the plays that they call work. Hopefully we do get creative."

The Buckeyes should get creative, as long as Pryor continues to garner Tressel's trust.

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for He can be reached at [email protected].

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