But mostly, I think we're going to see a lot more competitive conference races. When I look at Ohio State, I see a team, on paper, that's talented and experienced across the board and an obvious national-title contender. But the Buckeyes will also be facing at least two other very good teams (Wisconsin and Iowa) on the road during conference play. They may still win the Big Ten, but I don't see them running away with it.
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Terrelle Pryor accounted for 338 yards of offense in the Rose Bowl.
During a recent interview with ESPN Radio 1620 in Omaha (they can't get enough of me in Nebraska), I was asked about Terrelle Pryor's progress at Ohio State and whether he can follow Vince Young's path in his junior season with the Buckeyes.
Pryor always has drawn comparisons to Young, even before he arrived at Ohio State as the nation's top recruit in 2008. The two quarterbacks have shown some similarities in the early stages of their college careers, although Young really surged during the second half of his sophomore year. Pryor has been a bit less consistent, while still showing flashes of his immense potential.
One major connection between Pryor and Young is their performances in the final games of their sophomore seasons, the midpoint of most players' college careers. Both quarterbacks shined in Rose Bowl victories, Young against Michigan on Jan. 1, 2005 and Pryor against Oregon nearly seven months ago.
Both players earned Rose Bowl Offensive MVP honors for their efforts in Pasadena.
SOPHOMORE YOUNG VS. SOPHOMORE PRYOR AT THE ROSE BOWL
Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor each had standout Rose Bowls wins to cap their sophomore seasons:
Player Opponent Score Comp Pass Yds Pass TDs Ints Rush Atts/Yds Rush TDs
Young Michigan '05 38-37 16 of 28 180 1 1 21 for 192 4
Pryor Oregon '10 26-17 23 of 37 266 2 1 20 for 72 0
As we all know, Young built on his Rose Bowl performance with a fantastic junior season, passing for 3,036 yards and 26 touchdowns to go along with 1,050 rush yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Young won the Manning Award and the Davey O'Brien Trophy and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting as he led Texas to a national title. We're all waiting to see whether Pryor can make a similar jump in 2010.
How high did Young set the bar in 2005?
Here's a look at how he fared in the first half of his junior year:
FIRST SIX GAMES OF YOUNG'S JUNIOR SEASON
All Longhorn wins (Oklahoma game at Dallas):
Week Opponent Score Comp Pass Yds Pass TDs Ints Rush Att/Yds Rush TDs
1 vs. La.-Laf. 60-3 13 of 17 173 3 1 7 for 49 1
2 at Ohio State 25-22 18 of 29 270 2 2 20 for 76 0
3 vs. Rice 51-10 8 of 14 101 0 1 8 for 77 0
4 at Missouri 51-20 15 of 22 236 2 1 13 for 108 1
5 vs. Oklahoma 45-12 14 of 27 241 3 0 17 for 45 0
6 vs. Colorado 42-17 25 of 29 336 2 0 10 for 58 3
Some impressive numbers, indeed.
Pryor gets a mulligan like Young had against Rice, but he'll need to establish himself as a consistent passer and a quarterback who gets Ohio State into the end zone with his arm or his legs. It won't be easy, but if Pryor can follow Young's path this fall, the Buckeyes could be lifting the crystal football in January.
Matta Has Gratifying Moment, Provides Summer Updates
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS — Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta had an unexpected gratifying moment Wednesday.
Meeting with the media to update his team’s summer progress, Matta was asked about former Buckeye Kosta Koufos, who was recently traded from Utah to Minnesota after playing very few minutes for the Jazz last season.
It’s possible Koufos could be traded again before the season, especially considering the Timberwolves’ depth in the front court, and Matta was asked what it would take for Koufos to be successful at the next level.
“You probably need to ask his high school coach that,” Matta said with a satisfied smile.
For those who don't know the history, Koufos' high school coach, Jack Greynolds Jr., called Matta “clueless” back in 2008 after Koufos went No. 23 overall to Utah. The 7-footer averaged 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds during his only season in Columbus, but the Buckeyes failed to make the NCAA Tournament only one year after advancing to the championship game.
Matta did go on to say that he believes Koufos can be successful in the NBA as a big man with an outside shot. He also had a lot more to say about his current team.
ON THE NEW FRESHMEN...
- Matta said that all six of the new freshmen are in good standing with the NCAA Clearinghouse. He also said that the camaraderie has been great between the new guys and the veterans, and that the goal of the summer is the set the tone, culture and environment “of how we do things at Ohio State.”
- According to Matta, the wrist injury suffered by freshman Lenzelle Smith is very similar to what Greg Oden had early in his career at Ohio State. The Buckeyes are going to wait until August to take a look at the wrist again but still aren't expecting him back until October at the earliest.
- Matta said that he expects freshman Jordan Sibert to contribute this fall and that he told him this summer “just make sure you can make open jump shots.” He said Sibert's athleticism is back from his injury and he looks a lot more fit than when he got to OSU. He also said the most impressive thing about Sibert is his defense.
- As for fellow freshman J.D. Weatherspoon, they haven't talked about a redshirt yet, but Matta said he wants him to learn how to defend 3-4 positions on the court like David Lighty. He is an excellent rebounder but still needs to work on his shot.
ON OTHER INJURIES...
- Matta said that Lighty is off his crutches now but he is still wearing a boot. He's doing everything except running right now and will be out of the boot in a week-and-a-half. In the meantime, Lighty has dropped eight pounds (at Matta's request) and he's down to about 216 pounds.
- Former transfer Nikola Kecman has a much longer road to recovery after having another surgery on his ACL. The medical staff went into his knee to look at his torn meniscus, but found structural damage to the ACL he tore over in Europe. At this point it will be surprising if Kecman ever contributes for the Buckeyes.
ON EVAN TURNER...
Koufos wasn’t the only former Buckeye to come up Wednesday as Matta was asked about Evan Turner's early struggles in NBA Summer League, where he shot just 33 percent from the field in five games.
“It was an eye-opening experience for him,” Matta said of the former National Player of the Year.
“He was told not to play any basketball before the draft so he wouldn't get injured, so this was really the first time he played since our last game against Tennessee. He probably was not in great shape and was a bit rusty.”
Matta didn't back down from his belief that Turner will have a great pro career.
“I'm not worried, and neither are the people Philadelphia.”
ON LEBRON JAMES...
- Matta was then asked whether Ohio State's jerseys would continue to dawn the LBJ23 logo that represents LeBron James after the way the former Cleveland Cavalier spurned the city on national television.
He was quickly alerted to the fact that Ohio State’s game jerseys have not had that logo on them in two years (they only have the Nike check on them). He has not heard anything further about having the logo removed from practice gear, but assumes something will change now that LeBron isn’t even wearing No. 23 in Miami.
- He was then asked whether LeBron would still have good standing with Ohio State and the basketball team after what happened with his wild free agency this off-season. Matta said that he wishes LeBron would have stayed in Cleveland but they expect to continue their relationship with him.
“LeBron still loves Ohio and still loves Ohio State,” Matta said.
“We are a fan of him as a player, not just where is playing.”
-The Buckeyes have added a game against Miami (OH) right before their first game against Michigan.
Matta said he plans to play 9-10 guys this season because “I'm not going to answer all the damn questions this year,” he said with a smile. He did tell the freshmen that Lighty, Diebler and Buford are capable of playing 40 minutes if they aren't willing to work hard.
- He also said that he hopes Big Zisis Sarikopoulos will be able to contribute this year when he gets back from playing for Greece. They expect the 7-footer back in early August and camp opens September 15th.