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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pryor vs Mallett - Pryor Planning to Return, Leaves Other’s Status in Question - OSU vs Arkansas




Dueling QB styles in Sugar spotlight
When Arkansas defenders flip on film of Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, they see Heisman Trophy winner Cameron Newton.
Terrelle Pryor improved his completion percentage, passing yards and TD passes from last season."They are actually about the same size," Arkansas defensive end Damario Ambrose said. "Cam might be a little bit bigger, but they are basically like the same type of quarterback with the same type of arm. They are kind of like clones; it's kind of weird."
But when Ohio State defenders watch Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, they see a completely different quarterback than the ones they previously faced this season.
"I don't think we've played anyone similar to him," Buckeyes cornerback Chimdi Chekwa said. "We've played a lot of mobile quarterbacks; he's more of a guy that stays in the pocket longer and then makes all the throws. We have to get pressure on him and attack him."
Mallett and Pryor, two of the country's best quarterbacks, take center stage when the No. 6 Buckeyes and No. 8 Razorbacks meet in Tuesday night's Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Pryor is known for beating opponents with his arm and legs; Mallett is considered a prototype NFL quarterback with a Texas-sized arm.
Mallett, a junior from Texarkana, Texas, might be playing in his final college game. Mallett is considered a potential first-round choice in next spring's NFL draft. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks him as the No. 11 prospect eligible for the draft.
Pryor, a junior from Jeannette, Pa., will be playing in his final game for a while. He was one of five Ohio State players suspended by the NCAA from playing in the first five games of the 2011 season for selling their championship jerseys, rings and awards. Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said Pryor told him that he'll return to school for his senior season.
Three years ago, it seemed Mallett and Pryor would be the lead characters in one of college football's best rivalries. Mallett was a freshman at Michigan in 2007, when Pryor was considered the No. 1 high school prospect in the country before signing with the Buckeyes.
Subbing for injured starter Chad Henne at times, Mallett completed 43.3 percent of his passes for 892 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions in his only season at Michigan. He completed one pass for eight yards in the Wolverines' 14-3 loss to Ohio State. Mallett transferred to Arkansas after the Wolverines hired West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez to replace coach Lloyd Carr after the 2007 season.
Tressel expects to see a much different quarterback in New Orleans on Tuesday night.
"We are very familiar with Ryan Mallett from his time at Michigan," Tressel said. "We hoped we were done with him when he transferred, and here we are getting him at the height of his career."
Mallett has been a tailor-made fit for Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino's pass-happy offense. After sitting out the 2008 season under NCAA transfer rules, Mallett passed for more than 3,500 yards with 30 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons.
"He's really matured as far as his technique, his fundamentals and his footwork, and his balance and his delivery have gotten better and better," Petrino said. "I actually had him a year and a half before he played a game. That's a lot of time to be able to spend and work on technique and fundamentals."
Buckeyes linebacker Brian Rolle said he's most impressed with Mallett's ability to make quick decisions. Mallett completed 66.5 percent of his passes this season and has thrown only 18 interceptions in 767 pass attempts at Arkansas.
"You can tell that, if he comes out and doesn't like what he sees, he is going to check the play and put them in the best position," Rolle said. "I feel like that is where he can become dangerous. If you don't have enough guys in the box, he is going to check for a run, and if there is a stack in the box he is going to pass the ball. [That] is probably the thing you have to watch out for."
Mallett hasn't faced many defenses better than Ohio State. The Buckeyes ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense (250.6 yards per game), No. 3 in scoring defense (13.3 points) and No. 6 in pass defense (156.3 yards) at the end of the regular season. OSU allowed 200 passing yards in only two games -- victories over Miami and Eastern Michigan.
"I think Ryan Mallett is one of the best quarterbacks we've faced," Buckeyes defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said. "He does a lot of things we really don't like to see as a defense. He can throw those quick balls, short passes. He's got a great release, but the thing is, if you don't get back there, he's going to hit you deep. He's got great arm strength."
Pryor has accomplished almost everything at Ohio State, outside of winning a BCS national championship or a Heisman Trophy. He guided the Buckeyes to at least a share of three straight Big Ten championships and has a 30-4 record as a starter, and he is 3-0 against rival Michigan.
Ryan Mallett threw for over 300 yards in a game nine times this season.This season, Pryor completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,551 yards with 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while rushing for 639 yards with four scores.
"I think Terrelle has had an outstanding season," OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said. "He's a great dual threat. He's certainly improved his passing skills this year. If you look at pure yards throughout the season, his production in the passing game has been pretty good, certainly more consistent. His passing efficiency is pretty good. He does a good job of not turning the ball over."
Pryor seemed to turn the corner at the end of last season. He was named MVP of the Rose Bowl, after leading the Buckeyes to a 26-17 victory over Oregon and throwing for 266 yards with two touchdowns and running for 72 yards.
"He kind of flashed everybody in that game, I guess," Bollman said. "You have to say he's a special athlete. His ability to run the football is probably something that is very unique. He's very, very fast. He's much faster than he looks. There are a lot of guys who can probably throw the ball pretty well, and there are some guys who run the ball pretty well. I don't know many guys that do both. There are some, but I don't think there are a whole lot of them, and he's one of them."
The Razorbacks didn't fare well against mobile quarterbacks this season. In their 65-43 loss to Auburn, Newton ran for 188 yards and three touchdowns.
And Pryor might be faster than Newton.
"When Terrelle is running, you see guys who run 4.3 [second] 40s and no one can catch him," Buckeyes fullback Zach Boren said. "He's one of those guys that when he runs, no one knows how fast he is because his strides are long, and he's just real smooth when he runs."
Ambrose has noticed Pryor's deceptive speed on film.
"Sometimes he will be running beside a [defensive back] and it doesn't look like he is running fast," Ambrose said. "All of a sudden you see him just pull away."
If Pryor does indeed return for his senior season, he won't be eligible to return until OSU's sixth game in 2011, at Nebraska, a new Big Ten member, on Oct. 8.
"I've never sat out a game in my life, so I don't know how it's going to affect me next year yet," Pryor said.
Mallett and Pryor would like nothing more than to leave a lasting impression with their respective fan bases.
"I don't go to school at Michigan anymore," Mallett said. "I go to Arkansas. As far as a rivalry, it's our first meeting between the two teams, so it's not quite as intense. It's a little bit different."
The stakes will still be very high for both quarterbacks.





Pryor Planning to Return, Leaves Other’s Status in Question QuestionBy Brandon Castel
NEW ORLEANS, La. — It didn’t long for Terrelle Pryor to punch holes in Jim Tressel’s perfect plan.
On Thursday, Tressel announced that Pryor and four of his fellow juniors would be allowed to play against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4 under the agreement that they would also return for their senior seasons to serve the five-game suspensions handed down by the NCAA.
Two days later, Pryor added an out clause to that deal, which would allow them to go pro after the bowl game as long as it was what’s best for them and their family.
“It’s important to keep your word but some guys have different situations,’” Pryor said Saturday during player interviews.
Tressel made the players sign a pledge saying they would follow through on the deal after playing in the Sugar Bowl, but there is nothing binding about those contracts. Neither the NCAA nor a court of law would be able to hold them to their word, which means it is basically a glorified gentlemen’s agreement between Tressel and the five players.
It sounds like at least one of those players is already planning to back out on that gentlemen’s agreement after the season.
“I think some guys pledged and some guys... we were just basically saying, ‘Sorry,’” Pryor said on behalf of his teammates, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Boom Herron and Solomon Thomas.
Although Pryor could be talking about himself, and it’s always hard to tell with him, more likely he is speaking about one or more of the other four. As for himself, Pryor said he would definitely be back next season to honor the agreement with coach Tressel.
“Speaking for myself, once you pledge something, I think you’ve got to keep your word for it,” Pryor said.
Pryor announced during the regular season that he would be back next season to “leave a legacy” and “break all the records” at Ohio State. That decision was in serious jeopardy, however, after Pryor was notified he would miss more than a third of his senior season in Columbus.
“Obviously, when we first got that 5-game suspension it definitely crossed my mind because that’s five games,” he said.
“But then I looked back at the Ohio State family and the things I want to be a part of when I’m a senior. I’ve got a lot I could learn and I still can go through the process of being a senior at this great university.”
Receiver DeVier Posey has also publically committed to coming back next season, but the other three have yet to go on the record. Defensive end Solomon Thomas has started only one game in his OSU career, so turning pro is not really an option for him.
That leaves left tackle Mike Adams and tailback Boom Herron as the two candidates for leaving early.
“I know other guys are in different situations, I can’t really think if they would choose to leave that they are breaking a pledge because I wouldn’t say that it’s automatic,” Pryor said.
“I think some guys have different situations.”
Adams improved from a questionable starter to a first-team all-Big Ten performer this season, but as a Columbus kid, it would be a lot harder for him to walk away from a written agreement with Tressel.
Herron, on the other hand, is a redshirt junior coming off an unexpected 1,000-yard regular season. He ran for 15 touchdowns and his stock may never be higher than it is right now.
Herron also missed Saturday’s interview session and was replaced by fullback Zach Boren. Herron is still expected to start for the Buckeyes at tailback on Tuesday.


OSU vs Arkansas
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - These guys could've faced each other in one of college football's great rivalries.
Instead, they've had to wait three years for their showdown.
Finally, it's Terrelle Pryor vs. Ryan Mallett.
"It's pretty interesting, isn't it?" Arkansas defensive end Damario Ambrose said Saturday. "It's like a battle of the pocket passer against the scrambler."
Indeed, the contrasting styles - Arkansas' Mallett is a classic drop-back quarterback, Ohio State's Pryor can beat defenses with his arm or his legs - would be enough to make Tuesday night's Sugar Bowl an extremely compelling matchup.
But there's more.
Mallett started his college career at Michigan, which just happens to be the biggest rival for the No. 6 Buckeyes (11-1). And Pryor is clearly on a mission after the NCAA ruled he and four teammates must serve a five-game suspension next season for selling off rings, uniforms and awards, not to mention getting discounts on tattoos from an ink parlor in Columbus.
Already a beacon for controversy, Pryor acknowledges a further tarnishing of his legacy with this latest development.
"I've got to come up with some type of plan for next year because I'm going to have a five-game suspension," he said. "That's really messed up some of the things I wanted to accomplish. As of right now, all I can do is just keeping winning as much as possible, leading my team as much as I can. I guess I'll leave the rest to everybody else."
Pryor insists his long-stated plan of returning to Ohio State for his senior season won't change because of the suspension, even though it will keep him out of nearly half the games and make it impossible for him to match this year's numbers: passing for a career-best 2,551 yards and 25 touchdowns, and rushing for 639 yards and four more scores.
"Once you pledge to do something, I think you've got to keep your word," Pryor said.
Mallett has thrown for more than 7,000 yards since transferring to No. 8 Arkansas (10-2), but a BCS pairing with Ohio State has sparked a renewed focus on where he began his college career.
The 6-foot-6 Mallett initially signed with Michigan, starting three games as a true freshman in 2007. He even played sparingly in that year's finale against the Buckeyes, completing just one pass in a 14-3 loss. Still, that was enough to give him a good sense of just how much bitterness exists between the Big Ten rivals.
"It got ingrained in my system, so I think it still stuck with me for a while," he said. "I don't go to Michigan anymore, but I know what it's like going into that and getting prepared for that game."
His reaction when he found out he'd get another shot at the Buckeyes?
"I just had a big smile on my face," Mallett replied. "It's a great way to end the season."
He left Ann Arbor after Rich Rodriguez became the Wolverines coach, bringing along a spread offense that didn't fit with Mallett's strengths as a pocket passer. He transferred back to his home state and, after sitting out a season, flourished right away in Bobby Petrino's pro-style offense.
Mallett threw for 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2009. He's passed for 30 more scores and 3,592 yards this season.
"He's really matured as far as his technique, his fundamentals and his footwork. His balance and his delivery has gotten better and better," Petrino said. "I actually had him for a year and half before he played a game. That's a lot of time to spend and work on technique and fundamentals. He understands the game really, really well - both sides of the ball, offense and defense. As the years went on, he thinks more like we do as a coaching staff."
While Mallett's transition to the Razorbacks has been mostly smooth, Pryor has endured plenty of rough patches since arriving at Ohio State in 2008 as the nation's top-ranked prep player.
He's antagonized teammates, petulantly brushed off rivals and confidently predicted he could be putting up the same type of numbers as Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton if allowed to play in a similar offensive system.
There was some question about whether Pryor would even be allowed to speak to the media in New Orleans. Two years ago, coach Jim Tressel didn't bring his then-freshman quarterback to the Fiesta Bowl media day. The Buckeyes would've faced a heavy fine if they didn't make him available this time, so he was there - shadowed closely by a member of the football staff.
While the NCAA was criticized for allowing Pryor to play in the bowl, the quarterback is grateful that he's had a place to escape all the turmoil.
"The best way to get into my focus zone has just been to practice," Pryor said. "I'd be most stressed at home. Being on the field has been the least stressful place. I'm just looking at it as, 'We've got a game to play, let's play it."'
Still, he hasn't been able to get beyond earshot of his critics.
"You shouldn't worry about what other people say, but you do take a lot of what other people say into your mind," Pryor said. "They're saying it for some reason. That's the hardest thing, I guess, is hearing people say some cruel things about you. You know what you did and you take the responsibility, but guys are still out there nailing you and talking about you."
Pryor's teammates expect him to respond with a huge performance Tuesday night.
"He's taking it as a challenge," fullback Zach Boren said. "He's had a chip on his shoulder since everything happened. He's just gotten that much better. During practice and stuff, he's taking everything more seriously. He's harder on himself than he's ever been."

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