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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Buckeye Wednesday

Ready to Lead?
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS — Terrelle Pryor is the starting quarterback at Ohio State.
Quarterbacks by nature are supposed to be the leaders of a football team. The position itself has become synonymous with great field generals like Bart Starr, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and even Tim Tebow (you didn’t really think you were going to get away from him just because he wasn’t in Gainesville did you?).
For all his flaws as a quarterback, Tebow was everything Urban Meyer could have wished for as a leader. The Heisman Trophy winner gave Florida a rare mix of competitive fire and judicious composure in the heat of battle that coaches dream of finding at the game’s most critical position.
The Buckeyes are hoping they can capture that same type of mixture in their ultra-competitive quarterback from Pennsylvania.
“As a quarterback we talk a lot about being a leader no matter what your age is,” said Pryor, who will enter his third season as the quarterback at Ohio State this fall.
“So I try to lead no matter if I'm the youngest on the team or not.”
In two years at the helm of the OSU offense, Pryor has a record of 20-4 as a starter. He is coming off a marquee showing against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, a game the Buckeyes desperately needed to win in order to snap a three-year bowl losing streak.
He has racked up over 5,000 yards and 44 touchdowns in his brief college career, but does that alone make Pryor the leader of the Buckeyes in 2010?
“He’s calmer, more composed. He’s getting older as a person, and that makes a huge difference,” quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said during spring camp.
Even Head Coach Jim Tressel admits he wasn’t sure Pryor would have two Big Ten titles, two wins over Michigan, two BCS bowl appearances and a Rose Bowl win under his belt before the age of 21.
For as good as the numbers and accolades might appear on paper, there have also been some rough moments for Pryor during his first two years of college football. His first experience in a big game—albeit as a backup—was a 35-3 thrashing at the hands of USC.
Pryor took over as the starter under center the following week, but it was in week nine of the 2008 season that he made his first critical error as the quarterback at Ohio State, one that would ultimately cost the Buckeyes the game against No. 3 Penn State.
His decision to go for the end zone instead of keeping the ball inside for a first down lead to a game-changing fumble late in the fourth quarter. It was a decision that ultimately led to the Nittany Lions’ game-winning score in Pryor’s first loss as the starting quarterback.
A year later, Pryor threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball twice as Purdue upset the Buckeyes 26-18 in an ugly, ugly game in West Lafayette.
“Every time somebody asks me, I tell them, ‘Now just remember when you were 21 years old, all the mistakes you made and all of the things you might have said that were incorrect, so you’ve just got to remember that,” Siciliano said of his quarterbacks mistakes.
“I know all of the bad decisions I made when I was 21, I’m trying to stop them at 35.”
Siciliano and the Buckeyes are hoping Pryor can stop them a lot sooner. After passing for nearly 2,100 yards and rushing for nearly 800 as a sophomore in 2009, much more is expected of the 6-foot-6 quarterback as he prepares for his junior season. But is he ready to handle the type of leadership this team will need from its quarterback if they are going to make a run at the national title in 2010?
“I feel like I'm more of a people person now,” Pryor said during spring ball.
“I feel like I have a relief off my chest all the time and I can be just happy all the time and enjoy my teammates and talk with all my teammates no matter who it is and hold conversations with people outside of football.
“I feel great as an individual and I feel great as a quarterback.”
Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman noticed a difference in Pryor on and off the field this spring.
“In all aspects,” said Bollman.
“In the huddle and what he wants to try to do. What he wants to attempt to do. How he's throwing the ball. How he's taking charge and just his knowledge of the whole picture.”
Pryor’s new level of confidence and maturity is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates, especially the ones that have to line up and play against him every day in practice.
“He just has this ‘no doubt’ look in his eyes,” cornerback Devon Torrence said.
“He’s really confident right now. If he carries that over into the season, he’s going to have a really great season this year.”

Wimmers Repeats as Pitcher of the Year
Hurley joins him on all-Big Ten 1st-team; Dew and Stephens are 2nd- and 3rd-team honorees
OSU Press Release
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Four Buckeyes were selected to the All-Big Ten Conference team today, including junior right-hander Alex Wimmers being named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive year, the conference office announced.
Wimmers, a junior from Cincinnati, was a unanimous first-team selection and senior Zach Hurley, from Springboro, Ohio, was also named a first-team outfielder. Worthington, Ohio senior Ryan Dew was tabbed the second-team designated hitter and Victorville, Calif., senior Michael Stephens was named a third-team outfielder.
Wimmers, a National Pitcher of the Year Award and Golden Spikes Award candidate, becomes the first pitcher in conference history to receive the Pitcher of the Year Award two years in a row. Wimmers was co-Pitcher of the Year in 2009 with Indiana’s Eric Arnett. Former Buckeye Justin Fry is the only other pitcher in the Big Ten Conference to win the award twice, earning it in 1997 and again in 1999.
Despite battling a hamstring injury and missing four weeks at the tail end of the season, Wimmers posted a 9-0 record with a 1.60 earned-run average over 10 starts. The Cincinnati native gave up just 58 hits and struck out 86 batters over 73 innings pitched. Opposing batters hit just .218 off Wimmers and he tossed two complete game victories against Indiana and Penn State, striking out 25 over those two contests.
Hurley, a 2010 co-captain, led the Buckeyes and ranked third in the Big Ten with a .385 batting average. Hurley was not only an excellent table-setter, but he was a most valuable offensive performer as he lead the Buckeyes in runs (51), hits (85), doubles (19), triples (4), total bases (133) and slugging percentage (.602). He also tied for second on the team with seven home runs.

Dew led all Buckeyes with 46 runs batted in to go with his .348 batting average and 38 runs scored. The senior designated hitter/first baseman also saw some time in right field late in the season and tied for second on the team with seven home runs.
Stephens led the Buckeyes with 10 home runs while batting .360 with seven doubles and 43 runs batted in. The center fielder also stole five bases and scored 39 runs as he was named All-Big Ten both seasons at Ohio State after transferring from Fullerton College in California.

The Top 5 Conferences for 2010 College Football
Missouri and Nebraska to the Big Ten? Clemson and Florida State to the SEC?
Let's take a break from the conference-realignment hysteria to talk about the conferences that are actually in place.
With the start of the 2010 season less than four months away, it's time to examine how the 11 college football conferences will stack up.
I'm betting 2010 will look a lot like 2009. And 2008. And 2007. And 2006.
From top to bottom, the SEC figures to be the country's strongest conference. The SEC might not be as strong as it was during the past few seasons, but neither will the Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-10.

1. SEC

Defending BCS national champion Alabama will try to become the fifth consecutive SEC team to win a national title in 2010. The Crimson Tide won a BCS crown in 2009, Florida won in 2006 and '08 and LSU won in '07. The Crimson Tide must replace nine starters on defense, but they might return one of the best offenses in school history. Florida probably will take a small step back without quarterback Tim Tebow and eight other players who were drafted by NFL teams, but Tebow's replacement, John Brantley, figures to keep the Gators from falling off the map. Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina are all capable of being surprises in 2010.

2. Big Ten

If quarterback Terrelle Pryor plays the way he did against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Ohio State might be an overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten championship. And if the Buckeyes can navigate their way through home games against Miami and Penn State and road games at Wisconsin and Iowa, they also might be a legitimate BCS title threat. Meanwhile, the Badgers, Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions might be Ohio State's biggest threats in the Big Ten race. But unless Michigan can pull off a complete turnaround in coach Rich Rodriguez's third season, the rest of the conference figures to be mediocre or worse.

3. Big 12

The Big 12 will go through a transition period without star players like departed quarterbacks Colt McCoy of Texas and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma as well as defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska. But the league's overall depth remains very strong, especially if Nebraska can continue its resurgence under coach Bo Pelini. Oklahoma State might not be as stout without quarterback Zac Robinson and receiver Dez Bryant, and Kansas (Turner Gill) and Texas Tech (Tommy Tuberville) have new coaches. If new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter can shore up Texas A&M's defense, the Aggies might be the league's biggest surprise.

4. Pac-10

The league's overall strength took tremendous blows when USC coach Pete Carroll bolted for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was suspended for the 2010 season for off-the-field problems. The Ducks and Trojans still seem to be the teams to beat in the Pac-10 in 2010, but neither team figures to be a juggernaut. Former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin replaces Carroll and inherits what might be a roster with diminishing returns. Quarterback Matt Barkley returns, but USC must replace seven players who were drafted by NFL teams. Ducks coach Chip Kelly is counting on former starter Nate Costa to replace Masoli. Oregon State always exceeds expectations, and the Beavers should be potent on offense with Jacquizz and James Rodgers returning to school. Stanford has to survive without bruising tailback Toby Gerhart, but quarterback Andrew Luck might have the Cardinal in the Pac-10 hunt by season's end.

5. ACC

Is this the year Virginia Tech returns to the national title hunt? The Hokies haven't had as many weapons on offense since Michael Vick was running it. With quarterback Tyrod Taylor and tailbacks Darren Evans and Ryan Williams returning, the Hokies will be very difficult to slow down. If defensive coordinator Bud Foster can rebuild his unit -- and if Tech can win its Sept. 6 opener against Boise State at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. -- the Hokies might be in the thick of the BCS hunt. Georgia Tech must replace three departed stars (tailback Jonathan Dwyer, receiver Demaryius Thomas and defensive end Derrick Morgan), but coach Paul Johnson always seems to plug players into his triple-option, spread offense and not miss a beat. Florida State should have one of the country's more explosive offenses under new coach Jimbo Fisher, but former Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops might need time to rebuild the FSU defense. Miami continues to make much progress under coach Randy Shannon and might be even better if quarterback Jacory Harris cuts down on his mistakes. Even without departed star C.J. Spiller, Clemson can't be overlooked in the ACC's Atlantic Division.

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