Terrelle Pryor, and the Recruiting Hype Machine

Submitted by TomVH on September 16th, 2009 at 2:12 PM

The new meme across college football analysts is the disappointing performances by Terrelle Pryor. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated even went as far to ask if he chose the wrong school.There’s been blame put on Terrelle, Tressel, and I’m sure someone will find a way to blame Rich Rodriguez for Pryor’s woes.

It’s only two weeks into his sophomore campaign, and there has already been talk of Pryor being a bust. This past Saturday, Pryor and his Ohio State team lost in a close game to a USC team that’s ranked number three in the nation. Pryor has made poor decisions on the field, and even recently one off the field, HOWEVA, there are a few questions that need to be answered when addressing Terrelle Pryor. The first question that came to mind was if Terrelle Pryor was a victim of the “OMG star rankings,” and the new media hype of scouting services.

Pryor was ranked as the number one player in the country in 2008, and a five star recruit by Rivals.com. The attention he got throughout the recruiting process seemed like he was getting drafted right out of high school. He was dubbed the savior, the next coming of Vince Young, and even added to the media attention by holding multiple press conferences to announce that he would be announcing a decision, and then eventually announce the decision. The question is; was the hype warranted? Was Terrelle Pryor that much ahead of the rest of the field, and as college ready as the professionals said he was? I took the stats compiled from Pryor’s junior  year of high school, and compared them to Devin Gardner,  2010 QB prospect committed to Michigan.  For argument’s sake, I’ll leave their names out of their stats. Gardner hasn’t yet completed his senior year, and Pryor was dubbed the number one player in the nation after his junior year, anyway.

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Devin Gardner owns the first set of stats, and the second group belongs to Terrelle Pryor. As you can see, Pryor had approximately 200 more rushing yards, and 7 more rushing TD’s. Gardner, however, has a better passing percentage, more yards, and 11 more touchdown passes than Pryor. The two are also close in height, with Pryor having an inch or two on Gardner, while Terrelle is around 40 pounds heavier than Devin.

Devin Gardner is ranked as a 4 star prospect, and the 53rd best prospect in the country. So, it would seem by comparing stats and stature that 40 pounds is what separates Gardner from the 5th star, and the paparazzi following.

I’m not defending Pryor, or lobbying for Gardner. I’m merely comparing the two, and questioning the reason for the hype surrounding Terrelle Pryor.

It’s been said before that the recruiting services base a lot of their opinion on NFL potential. While the NFL has adopted the wildcat and more athletic quarterbacks, the biggest emphasis is still on passing ability. Again, based off of these stats, Pryor is not light years ahead of his peers.

It seems like Pryor has fell victim (I hate to call him a victim of anything) of the new media hype machine. They created the monster, and after building his castle, seem to be deconstructing it one poor decision at a time.

(The next stat that needs to be analyzed is how Pryor compares to past number 1 rated quarterbacks in their freshman and sophomore seasons. I’ll have another post on this later.)



September 16th, 2009 at 2:22 PM ^

Quality of competition and coaching are two factors that can vary drastically at the high school level. You don't mention either of them here.

However, I agree with your overall point and I look forward to your comparison of other top-rated QB's freshmen and sophomore seasons. Henne and Forcier perhaps have us Michigan fans forgetting that quarterbacks can't always come in and succeed immediately.


September 16th, 2009 at 2:36 PM ^

of Pryors #'s coming out of high school was, IIRC, that he played in PA's smallest division of competition. Gardner plays in the 3rd division of Michigan, out of 8. Still, I do not know how these two levels compare. However, I do know that Gardner's team goes to Ohio three times this year for high level competition.


September 16th, 2009 at 2:20 PM ^

"They (the media) created the monster, and after building his castle, seem to be de-constructing it one poor decision at a time."

Isn't that one of the primary functions of the media? Create heroes and then tear them down when they "fail".

The first bad game Tate has it will happen to him as well.


September 16th, 2009 at 2:29 PM ^

he does seem to be a victim of the omg rating system. over dramatic fans and media will probably follow pryor with one-sided praise or scorn in every big game he plays in.

it will be interesting to see how the media reacts to tate forcier, who they've now built up, when (if !) he has a poor game.


September 16th, 2009 at 2:31 PM ^

And agree very much with the content. I think people tend to get caught up too much in star rankings (though I do agree there is a positive correlation between star rankings and being a good football player). I think the reason that TP was a 5 star was mostly based on his 4.3 speed (which is also another component of the media hype machine) and the fact that his high school competition in Pennsylvania was "stronger." Also, 3 years ago, the appeal of finding the next "Vince Young" was a lot stronger than it is today.

Brother Mouzone

September 16th, 2009 at 2:35 PM ^

But he has definitely played a role in drawing the (unwanted) attention.

His maturity and decision making need to catch up with his athletic skill set.

I think he would have done well on the field at Michigan, and doubt if we would have been 3-9 if he was on last year's team.
He's a work in progress. I think when it's all said and done he will be a solid QB for "The University of Ohio State".

Would that have "scared off" Tate? Would that have impacted Gardner? We will never know those answers.

Hype sells ads, generates web clicks, and give hope and fear to fans of teams.

Pryor(Conviction) reminds me of the quote "Like a moth to the flame burned by the fire."

Of course I'm enjoying his hype and hope Michigan has an important part in the "deconstruction of his castle".

It would be interesting to see how he compares to V. Young in his final two years @ OSU.

Very nice diary article Tom VH. I enjoy your work.


September 16th, 2009 at 4:04 PM ^

Your comment reminds me of what I said when Pryor kept stalling his decision: "If the kid is taking so much time in choosing a school, how on earth is he going to make decisions on the football field? Maybe we don't want him after all."

So yeah, maybe it all works out in the end. I still think Tressel should not have played him so much last year either. He certianly looks like a square peg in a round whole trying to run pro-set.

Oh well, that is tOSUs problem now.


September 16th, 2009 at 2:41 PM ^

Mr. Pryor, Meet [Sophomore Slump]

YMRMFSPA Chad Henne circa 2005, the Year of Infinite Pain.

It happens. Especially when the supporting cast is diminished while the expectations increase. Pryor is basically trying to morph into an NFL style passer while shouldering the burden of Ohio State's offense. Personally, I doubt he--or anyone--can do both simultaneously; either he gets help from guys around him to grow (think Braylon Edwards catching Chad Henne's freshman throws into his general vicinity) or he carries the load playing the way he's always played (think--if you dare--Vince Young avoiding tackles like he was made of plutonium). To me, it's either/or not both.

Add into that the extra pressure and criticism he's getting and he may end up with a John Navarre Complex which further degrades his performance.

Or he could just be a bust.


September 16th, 2009 at 2:49 PM ^

is that it is also creating a "hype monster" with Forcier. He is a freshman and will likely struggle as he goes along but with the media building him up, when he does struggle, he will fall that much further down in the media/fan's eyes, which is unfair and unfortunate.

anyway as to tp vs. dg, I am less concerned with stats as I am now concerned with the "smarts" to memorize and execute RR's play book, make defense reads and play smart. Forcier has shown he has the brains, dg with 1+ yr of development will have the brains, but tp, definitely does not have it as slightly evidenced by his last 2 performances and by his statements about "everybody kills everybody and everybody robs everybody" etc.


September 16th, 2009 at 3:25 PM ^

Here is what I find to be one of the biggest fallacies in recruiting: ranking the taller of two mobile QB's higher. If you are talking about pro-set, pocket passers, then height means a lot because DL's block passing lanes by raising their hands. So, the taller the QB, the better he can see, and the higher his release point, and the higher he should be ranked.

However, they are missing one huge point when rating mobile QB's: IF YOU'RE ROLLING OUT, IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW TALL YOU ARE.

This opens up a great recruiting niche for RR if he wants it: mobile QB's who aren't tall enough to play QB in the NFL. Exhibit A: Tate Forcier. Exhibit B: Denard Robinson.

I am guessing that, down the line, the schools that decide to keep running pro-set have their pick of QB's over 6-4, while spread option programs have their pick of the shorter ones.

And this brings me back to my original premise: Terelle Pryor is misused. Whoever told him he has the talent to be a pocket NFL QB was lying to him. That would be one James Tressel. He has the body, but not the head or the quick reflexes. Pryor plays like he still has to think and then do instead of knowing and doing. That extra couple tenths of a second goes a long way toward sabotaging most plays.

If Tressel decides to either go spread next year or start calling a lot of rollout/option stuff out of the pro-set for Pryor, OSU and Pryor will start playing well, and he may yet reach a level somewhat appropriate for his hype. If, however, they keep doing what they're doing, they're gonna keep getting what they're getting: an underachieving, soft, well-paid crybaby.

I hope he keeps doing what he's doing.


September 16th, 2009 at 4:18 PM ^

I wonder how much of his misuse is Tressell honoring a promise that he wouldn't make Pryor run a spread. He would clearly be more effective in that kind of offense at this point, so why not start w/ that as your base and then incorporate pro-style sets as he matures?


September 16th, 2009 at 3:32 PM ^

should end the what are we going to do when DG gets here conversation. he needs to be redshirted next year then back up the force for two years and then he'll get his chance to start his redhirt junior year with three years of experience and refining.

The King of Belch

September 16th, 2009 at 4:02 PM ^

Pryor was rushed into the starting lineup in a panic move after the USC disastah last season. He would have benefitted from being eased into it, or backing up/redshirting and a year of coaching.
He's young--maybe he has suffered from a lack of developmental coaching along the eay and is relying on instinct and what got him by in high school because those techniques haven't been drilled out of him.

I think when you take a look at some comments he's made and some other things that have happened, this is a young man who is trying to learn many things on the fly, and maturity is one of them. I don't think it can be said with certainty that he will prove out as much as the hype made us think.

Tressel made a mistake here. I just think it's lost in the fact that OSU went 10-3 last year and almost beat Texas.


September 16th, 2009 at 4:28 PM ^

this is a very good post and the stats/stars comparison is eye opening.

i'd add to it that the "Pryor Kool-Aid" has continued long past the recruiting services assessments.

the MSM voted this guy Big Ten offensive player of the year in August. this was after watching him play almost an entire season as the starter.

Pryor's numbers as a frosh were good- 800 yds rushing/1300 passing, 60% completion, w/ 12 passing TDs & 6 rushing- but hardly earth shattering (for comparison, Colt McCoy, as a frosh, put up 300 yds rushing/2500 passing, 68% completion, w/ 29 passing TDs and 2 rushing). and last year's tosu offense featured multiple NFL picks at RB & WR, in addition to losing most of the O line this year.

for the press to think that he was going to perform substantially better this year, w/out that suppporting cast,is pretty "out there".

the pundits, like the recruiting gurus, are in love w/ his physical skills (rightly), but that's not what QB is all about.

after the ND game, the reporter interviewed Tate & asked him about his touchdown run. Forcier launched into a discussion about how he "knew" that ND was in a "cover zero" D and goes on to explain how he knew how THAT D in THAT situation would mean he had an open running lane. point being, the ability to read the D, make a good decision, and then act on it is far more important than running a 4.3/40.

maybe someday Pryor will learn to make those kind of reads and decisions. certainly time & experience will help. until then, he's going to struggle against good D and suffer from comparisons of his performance to the expectations.


September 16th, 2009 at 7:29 PM ^

I equate T.P. and Vesty in this simple analogy: Together, they are like a great set of golf clubs in a 2 year old's hands. You can have the best clubs in the world, but if you have no idea how to use them to their fullest potential you might as well leave them in the bag.

The Suckeyes are not a good fit for Pryor in my opinion. He could have thrived in a dozen other programs and schemes. I'm still glad he isn't wearing the winged helmet.