Evaluating the Mechanics of Big Ten Quarterbacks - Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor came in to Columbus as the most ballyhooed Buckeye recruit ever, and has equally thrilled and frustrated Buckeye fans since he took over as a starter in his freshman season.  The raw talent is obvious, but his inconsistency can be maddening.  He is very much like the Nursery Rhyme about the little girl with the little curl in the middle of the forehead—when he is good, he’s very, very good, but when he is bad he’s...well, not quite horrid, but he’s not good.  What made grading Pryor so difficult is that inconsistency.  He would play great football one week, okay football the next, and then look lost another week, most notably in the upset loss to Purdue.  But then he had good games against Penn State and Michigan, and then his ‘Oh My God’ moment against Oregon in the Rose Bowl.  If the Rose Bowl was a preview of things to come for Terrelle Pryor, 2010 will be one for the ages for Ohio State. 

 

Snap (B):

·  Security/Ball Placement (B+):  Pryor is not prone to turning the ball over during the exchange.  On drop back passes, he holds the ball at the numbers, close against his chest.  This is a very fundamentally sound area of his game.  When he rolls out, he still keeps the ball up, body perpendicular to the field.  When he decides to run, it’s a decisive transition to tucking the ball and running.      

·  Retreat Speed (A):  No fooling around here.  His tall frame allows him to take the snap and set up in the pocket quickly.  His steps are measured and sure, and he wastes no motion in getting to his set up point.   

·  Footwork (C):  This could have been graded anywhere from an A to a D, to be honest.  When he is patient and he lets the play develop, he is very fundamentally sound.  However, too many times he would feel pressure, real or imagined, and his footwork and mechanics would fall apart.  That was his Achilles heel for most of 2009, and if teams made him uncomfortable, defenses could neutralize him.  In the Rose Bowl, it looked like the coaching staff had worked a lot with him during practice leading up to the game, and it showed.  He only made a couple of bad throws, and had the best game of his career.

- The Fake (A):  Pryor’s athleticism helps him here.  His play action is okay, but his spread run option is well above average.  He sells the fake well, and it gives him that extra step to get around the edge and into the secondary.

·  Adaptation (D):  I really downgrade TP here, because as the season went on, he demonstrated that he could not consistently execute the gameplan, and the offensive coaching staff went to the Rush Limbaugh school of conservatism after the Purdue game, save the Rose Bowl.  I firmly believe that he can run the whole offense, and although one great game against Oregon was very encouraging—and it was a great game--his overall body of work supersedes one game.  Because of a perceived inability to run the offense and an inability to adapt by Pryor, Ohio State went all 1968 on the rest of the Big Ten.  It worked, but some people were actually advocating that Pryor be converted to a running back or wide receiver.   

Release (C):

·  Survey (C):  His impatience and inexperience didn’t do him any favors last season.  At times it looked like he either focused on his primary receiver, or didn’t know what his progression was, or didn’t have time to run through it because of pressure, or a combination of the three.  Consequently, he would hurry a throw or just tuck it and run.  When he did stay in the pocket and run through his progressions, he usually made a very good throw.  Again, very inconsistent, and there was no discernable improvement from game to game.  It was one step forward, one step back all season.    

·  Stance (B):  Overall, his stance is good.  He stands tall in the pocket and starts reading the field as he is in his drop, or as soon as he gets the snap from the spread.  Even as he rolls out, his head is up, scanning the field or looking for an opportunity to run.           

·  Step (C):  When Pryor is decisive, his step into the throw is big league.  He delivers a good, accurate fastball with deceptive speed.  However, when he is indecisive, he hurries his throw, tends to throw off balance or off his back foot, and he relies too much on his natural ability and arm strength to get him by.  That worked in high school, but it has been proven that doesn’t work in The Big Ten. 

·  Wrist/Throw (C):  Although he has a strong arm, his three quarter to sidearm Uncle Rico technique makes me want to cringe.  His throws tend to sail, and his receivers bailed him out time and time again last season with great catches (see Ballard, Jake, Rose Bowl).  That said OSU coaches haven’t tried to correct it, so it is what it is.  Hey, it worked for Vince Young, and Pryor put it together in the Rose Bowl, so we’ll see.     

How the Offense Affects Mechanics (A): 

This seems like an odd grade considering I gave him a 'D' in adaptation but consider this before you crucify me here:  this offense is tailor made for Pryor’s talents and it was this offense that was the blueprint for Troy Smith and his 2006 Heisman trophy season.  He is a fast, dynamic runner with a stiffarm like a sledgehammer, something even Smith didn't even have.  He has a very good and veteran offense surrounding him, and he has shown tantalizing glimpses of what he can do passing the ball.  Pryor has been under the microscope almost from day one—he was starting as a freshman, taking over for a senior captain.  As a sophomore, for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, he only threw 11 interceptions all year against 18 TD passes.  Oh, and OSU won the Big Ten, beat Michigan, and won the Rose Bowl, so it’s not like he presided over Armageddon.  This offensive scheme plays right into his talents, and if he can harness his talent the sky is the limit for Ohio State and their starting quarterback.

The key for Pryor in 2010 is patience and a better feel for the game, which he should have as a junior and legitimate team leader.

Overall: B-

Big Ten Report Card:

1. Kirk Cousins (A-)

2. Scott Tolzien (B+)

3. Tate Forcier (C-)

4. Ricky Stanzi (B+)

5.
Dan Persa (B+/A-)

6.
Adam Weber (B-)

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