Perhaps it's fitting Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor wrote Michael Vick's name on his eye black earlier this season. Saturday's 26-18 loss to Purdue proved again that, from a strictly football perspective, Pryor and Vick appear to be the same person -- phenomenal athletes who can't control the cannons attached to their shoulders well enough to be effective starting quarterbacks at their given levels.
I realize I'm the same person who wrote after the Ohio State spring game that Pryor was ready to utilize his gifts. Seven games in, I'm willing to admit I was wrong. Against Purdue, a team that probably doesn't have a single player who received a scholarship offer from Ohio State, Pryor completed 17-of-31 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown that came when a Hail Mary landed in DeVier Posey's hands after two Purdue defenders ran into one another. Pryor also threw two interceptions, fumbled three times (two of which were lost) and took five sacks.
Of course, we shouldn't heap all the blame on Pryor. After Ohio State lost to USC in Week 2, Smart Football's Chris Brown wrote a devastating critique of the Buckeyes' offense. Brown's sentiments still ring true. Even though Pryor has his limitations, he's usually the best athlete on the field. Unfortunately, that knowledge hasn't stopped Ohio State coach Jim Tressel from treating Pryor like any other quarterback on a lot of plays.
Ohio State's best play Saturday may have been the two-point conversion after the Posey touchdown. Pryor bootlegged and simply outran the Boilermakers to the pylon. Given the talent gap between the two teams, it stands to reason Ohio State could have dialed up similar plays quite a bit more throughout the game and come away with more than 13 first downs. But as long as Tressel insists on turning Pryor into Craig Krenzel, the offense will suffer.
I wonder if Pryor regrets turning down Rich Rodriguez to go to Columbus. In Rodriguez's offense at Michigan, Pryor would average close to 100 yards a game running zone-read plays. He would be asked to make short, controlled throws that have no chance of being intercepted. Every once in a while, he'd be allowed to uncork a deep ball, but the defense would be so worried about him running that it might fall asleep and allow him to hit an open receiver.
With the exception of Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, who -- gasp -- changed his entire offensive philosophy during a 15-minute halftime to suit his backup quarterback's skill set in a win Thursday at South Florida, most big-time coaches seem averse to building a scheme around the particular talents of their players.
Pryor may not be the ideal quarterback, but he's still more talented than 99 percent of the players in America. Ohio State coaches need to stop trying to force him to be something he's not and embrace what he is. If they do that, they'll find their jobs, and Ohio State's games, a lot easier.