For the first time in years, an entire session of Ohio State fall football practice was open to the local media for viewing on Tuesday morning.
That was far from the only media present though, as the "Big Ten Tonight" studio crew of
Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith began their bus trip across the Big Ten with a stop in Columbus to see the Buckeyes.
The trio watched practice, provided analysis and conducted interviews with Ohio State players and coaches for a show televised to the rest of the country on the Big Ten Network yesterday evening.
Later Revsine, DiNardo and Griffith took some time to discuss what they saw – which wasn’t much considering it was just the second day of OSU practice this season.
But even with the limited amount of scrimmaging that took place – the Buckeyes, still in the NCAA’s five-day acclimation period that bans full pads at the start of practice, mostly went through drills – the Big Ten Network crew was able to take notice of several things.
The good news for Ohio State fans is that one of the things DiNardo and Griffith noted in a positive sense was the growth of sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
“I think one of the things that stood out to me today is the fact that he’s putting his arm around young players,” said Griffith, the former Illinois running back. “He’s having fun, smiling. He’s explaining the game to those younger players, and that’s something that you don’t really get the chance to see all the time unless you come and watch practice.
“When you watch that type of interaction with your quarterback, that tells you that he’s starting to become that leader, and that’s what they need him to be. He’s doing exactly what they need him to do.”
DiNardo agreed that Pryor, now in his second year in the program, appears to be carrying himself differently.
“Pryor looks as much like a veteran as he looked like a rookie a year ago,” the former Indiana and LSU head coach said. “His growth has been significant, I mean by body language and the way he carries himself.”
One year ago, Pryor was a highly touted freshman – the nation’s No. 1 recruit according to Scout – but entered camp expected only to spell senior returning starter Todd Boeckman at times. Instead, Pryor moved into the starting role after Boeckman struggled through the first three games.
He ended up going 8-1 as a starter and led Ohio State to a share of the Big Ten title for the fourth straight season, leading the league in passing efficiency along the way. Still, the Buckeye offense placed 10th in the Big Ten in passing yardage and ninth in total yards.
Since that season, Pryor has appeared to work on his throwing motion, but Griffith said that experience will be the biggest key to his continued on-field development.
“Nothing is going to help him on the field but the reps,” Griffith said. “Continuing to get the reps in practice, continuing to get the game reps, he’s going to get better as a passer, get better as a runner, all of the things that happen.”
As far as Revsine and DiNardo were concerned, the status of Ohio State’s offensive line also attracted notice, especially after senior Jim Cordle told both the local media on reporting day and then the network on Tuesday that perceived underachievement from the line again this year would not be tolerated.
“It was tough because you don’t get to go to necessarily every single unit, but of the units I went and saw, the seriousness of purpose on the offensive line, they just kind of seemed to be a little more focused,” Revsine said. “Cordle said in one of our interviews, ‘You know, we’ve underachieved as a unit.’ To just kind of flat-out say that, I know (Gerry) thought that was interesting.”
“Jim Cordle made that statement that they underachieved, but you get the sense that maybe the line coaches and the line kids feel some pressure to have a good season,” DiNardo added.
This visit to Columbus was just the latest for the BTN crew, which has tripped across the conference’s eight-state footprint over the past few springs and autumns to see the league’s 11 teams.
Griffith’s return to Ohio State did seem a little different than past trips, he said, because of the youth present on the Buckeye roster.
“I look back to last year’s practices and it was crisp,” Griffith said. “This year you can see it’s a little different, but that’s all part of the learning process. Guys have to learn how to practice at the speed and tempo that Jim Tressel is accustomed to.”
When it came to Ohio State’s prospects for 2009, the media’s preseason champion also seemed to have support among the BTN crew. Though they cautioned they hadn’t yet seen the rest of the league, Revsine and DiNardo put the Buckeyes among the best in the league from a talent standpoint, while Griffith went another step.
“They’re still the team to beat in the Big Ten,” Griffith said. “I think much of it is the defensive line and the defense period, and also the two running backs (Boom Herron and Brandon Saine). I think there’s so much you can do with those two guys. I think at quarterback they have the edge as well.”
The Big Ten Network’s “Big Ten Tonight” studio crew will continue its tour at Penn State on Thursday.