Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has much to ponder about his future in the wake of Thursday's NCAA suspension of Pryor and four teammates for the first five games of the 2011 season for receiving improper benefits.
Pryor said earlier this season he will return in 2011. But he could have reneged on that promise even if he hadn't gotten caught for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants for beating Michigan, which netted him $2,500.
As he considers forgoing his senior season and turning pro, Pryor will surely submit his paperwork to the NFL's college advisory committee to receive the projection of where he would go in the April 28-30 draft. He probably won't like the answer.
Pryor is far from a polished passer and regressed at times in 2010. He often pushes the ball rather than using his whole body to make the throw. While he's been bailed out by talented receivers Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey (another junior also suspended), Pryor cannot put the ball on the spot where it needs to be in the NFL so only the receiver can get it. He needed another year to work on such mechanics.
The advisory committee isn't likely to give him a first-round grade. That doesn't mean a team wouldn't take a chance on him for his athletic ability, much like the Denver Broncos tabbed Florida's Tim Tebow 25th overall this year for his leadership and potential.
Pryor's running ability, with lithe, long strides that seem effortless, could prompt an NFL team to consider him at another position. A team at the bottom of the first round or with multiple first-rounders could take him and develop him if it has that luxury.
But it must also be considered how big this scandal will play in the minds of NFL presidents and general managers. Pryor wasn't thinking of his teammates when he risked his eligibility for $2,500. The incident shows that he may already have a strong sense of entitlement if he thought he could pull this off without getting caught.
In the eyes of the NFL, will it be considered a character flaw, especially since the quarterback is the team's leader? Or will it be dismisssed as minor, since the players were supposedly motivated to help their needy families? If he does come out early, will pre-draft investigations find more skeletons in Pryor's closet?
Showing how he's regarded by those in his conference, preseason offensive player of the year Pryor didn't even make first-team All-Big Ten. The coaches selected Northwestern's Dan Persa to the first team and Wisconson's Scott Tolzien to the second team, while the media tabbed Michigan's Denard Robinson and Persa. Pryor received honorable mention.
If he stays, Pryor will miss games against Akron, Toledo, at Miami, Colorado, and Michigan State. He could be supplanted by a true freshman, Braxton Miller of Wayne High School outside Dayton, an Under Armour All-American who is rated the No. 2 quarterback in the Class of 2011. Miller, 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, is regarded as more of a pure passer than Pryor.
Would a rusty Pryor regain his job in Game 6, an Oct. 8 showdown with Big Ten newcomer Nebraska in Lincoln? Perhaps, but not if Miller lives up to his reputation.
My guess is that Pryor will scrap his college career and turn pro. The Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas will likely be his swan song. Buckeye fans have to hope he plays better than he did in the biggest game of the season, an Oct. 16 loss at Wisconsin. His performance in what could be his final bowl game will also help determine his professional fate, especially with the scrutiny that Thursday's penalty will bring.
No matter what happens in New Orleans, the sale of items that netted him $2,500 could cost him millions.
The deadline to declare for the draft is Jan. 15. Even those at the NFL's Park Avenue headquarters in New York have to be wondering what Pryor will do.