Practice for the upcoming Sugar Bowl vs. Arkansas is under way for the Ohio State football team, but…
The quarterback gained notice by expressing his disdain for being left off the All-Big Ten first and second teams, and he caused a stir when he told the Chicago Tribune he could dominate college football if he played in the same type of offense as quarterbacks such as Cameron Newton of Auburn, Denard Robinson of Michigan and Dan Persa of Northwestern, but his teammates had no problem with his words.
"I would expect him to be a little upset, I guess, because he's a competitive guy," senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. "Expectations were through the roof like they are every year, so I can't be surprised by that. And, yeah, I think he did have a good year. Obviously, I don't know how any of the voting works, who's a part of any of the voting, so I can't speculate on what should have happened. But I know he's done his job for us well."
Pryor finished the regular season 26th in the nation with an average of 265.8 yards of total offense (rushing and passing) per game. Robinson was third (329.9), Persa eighth (310.0) and Newton 10th (307.5).
Newton won the Heisman Trophy, an award Pryor was once considered a top contender for, while Robinson, Persa and Tolzien were the All-Big Ten honorees ahead of Pryor.
While Ohio State has tried to strike a balance between spread and pro-style offensive principles this season, the other three quarterbacks in all ran some kind of spread on a full-time basis, something Pryor found significant when evaluating performances.
Pryor's high on the season was 20 carries for 113 yards in a 36-24 defeat of Miami (Fla.) on Sept. 11. Officially, he carried three times against Indiana, but all three were sacks. Including the contest against the Hurricanes, he carried nine or more times in six different games.
Overall, he averaged 53.3 yards rushing on 10 carries per game.
Persa ran 16.4 times per game for 51.9 yards and had at least nine carries in every game but one.
Newton carried only once in a 52-3 blowout of Louisiana-Monroe but had at least eight totes in every other game. He finished the regular season gaining an average of 108.4 yards per game on 18.6 carries.
Excluding a five-carry game against Bowling Green in which he was injured in the first half and did not return, Robinson carried at least 17 times in every game. He averaged 20.4 rushes for 136.9 yards per game.
Stats aside, OSU cornerback Devon Torrence is among those who thinks Pryor deserved more credit for the Buckeyes success.
"Yeah, you could look at it like that and say all that stuff, but I was talking to TP – I hang out with him a lot – and he's not concerned about all that," Torrence said. "He told me he wants to get these wins, that's the biggest thing."
When it comes to wins, only Newton stood higher this year.
He has the 13-0 Tigers set to play in the BCS National Championship game while Pryor led the Buckeyes to 11-1. Auburn won the SEC, and Ohio State shared the Big Ten championship with Wisconsin and Michigan State. The Wolverines went 7-5 with Robinson at the helm, and the Wildcats were 7-3 before Persa was lost for the season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon. Northwestern lost both games he missed at the end of the year.
Would the team like to see Pryor get more recognition?
"Of course - he's our quarterback," Torrence said. "He deserves a lot of those things. He's one of the best athletes in college football."
Pointing out how much Pryor has progressed as a quarterback this year, Torrence suggested his senior year could be special.
"We could be having a totally different conversation if you ask me these questions (next year)," Torrence said. "You could be asking me how I feel about him winning the Heisman or how do I feel about him being All-Big Ten and everything. Sometimes you have to let people have time to grow and get past their rough patches, especially at the quarterback spot. You can have one big year and you can be the man and everybody is saying you're all-everything."
Everyone knows Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is no fan of off-field headlines, but he sounded relatively unconcerned when reporters asked him about Pryor's interview with the Tribune.
"Well, usually when you look at comments extracted out in the midst of a long discussion, if you take umbrage to one, you've probably not felt the whole context," Tressel said. "Probably my discussion, if I were in those shoes, would have been the discussion which was part of it which, ‘Hey, I'm happy with titles. I wouldn't trade my championships for any honors or statistics or whatever,' and left it there. But, you know, I'm more experienced."
Pryor still has a chance for at least one national award. He is one of 10 candidates for the Manning Award for national quarterback of the year.
Created by the Sugar Bowl in honor of the college football accomplishments of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning, the Manning Award will be handed out after the bowls in a ceremony in New Orleans.
It is the only quarterback award that takes the candidates' bowl performances into consideration in its balloting.
Robinson, Newton and Pryor are nominated along with Darron Thomas of Oregon, Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State, Andy Dalton of TCU, Colin Kaepernick of Nevada, Andrew Luck of Stanford, Ryan Mallett of Arkansas and Kellen Moore of Boise State.
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