COLUMBUS: Ohio State’s Darrell Hazell looks at the video and can only shake his head. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor looks off his first choice as a receiver, then scans the field for a second one. ZING!
He flicks the ball to him for a first down.
“You’re watching him grow up day by day, game by game,” said Hazell, the second-ranked Buckeyes’ assistant head coach in charge of receivers. “Look how comfortable he looks. He’s finding the checkdowns. That’s all about maturation and moving to being one of those great players. He’s going to be a phenomenal quarterback when it’s all said and done.”
The junior, like most coltish underclassmen at the position, used to be quick to bolt from the pocket. “Happy feet,” they call the desire to dance with the ball when feeling the pressure of a crowd of pass-rushers.
A gifted runner, it was as if Pryor used a covered primary receiver as an excuse to escape up the field.
No more. Now more of a quarterback than a running back, he’s feeling more at home when he’s surrounded by blockers.
“I’m very comfortable standing in the pocket,” he said this week while preparing for the Buckeyes’ game at Illinois to begin Big Ten play.
“I’m starting to really get a good trust in the linemen and the protection. I was very young last year and even my freshman year, so I obviously wasn’t going to really, really stand there. But as you saw last week, I can take some hits. I don’t think I’ll have a problem this week.”
Illinois coach Ron Zook has noticed the change.
“You look at him now compared to as a freshman, he is a completely different player,” Zook said. “He had the same abilities and athleticism and so forth two years ago, but this year he’s different.”