If the question hasn’t already popped into your head this fall, it probably will on Saturday:
What if Terrelle Pryor had chosen Michigan?
It’s been hard to avoid that “what if” this season, especially as the Wolverine offense has sputtered under the direction of quarterbacks Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan.
Less than a month into the season, Pyror elevated himself to the top spot at Ohio State over returning senior starting quarterback Todd Boeckman. If Pryor had the talent to win the job over Boeckman, there’s little doubt he would have started the season for Michigan, even with just a few weeks of fall camp.
The scary thing is that Pryor fits better in Rich Rodriguez’s offense than he does in Ohio State coach Jim Tressel’s. Pryor is a true dual-threat quarterback. He has the size and speed to succeed not just at the college level, but as a professional, too.
We know this now because we’ve seen it on the field all fall — a much more convincing display than his high-school highlight reel.
Just take a look at the numbers: 1,125 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions passing; 116 carries for 560 yards and six touchdowns.
Those are some great stats, especially for a freshman, and even more impressive when stacked up against Threet and Sheridan (1,631 yards, 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions combined).
Certainly, Pryor has benefited from an extremely experienced Ohio State offense, in particular the offensive line. The Buckeyes’ veteran group stands in stark contrast to Michigan’s unit.
Pryor has experienced help at skill positions, too, including senior running back Beanie Wells, an outside Heisman Trophy contender.
In the Buckeyes’ 30-20 win over Illinois last week, Pryor threw just 10 passes. But he also rushed the ball 10 times for more than 100 yards and a touchdown. It’s Pryor’s breakout potential on the ground that could have made the biggest difference for the Wolverines.
There’s no denying Pryor’s speed (at or close to a 4.4 second 40-yard dash) would have been a key asset to Michigan’s offense. The offense Rodriguez wants to run at Michigan, the one he had so much success with Pat White at West Virginia, is the spread option.
To be truly explosive, that offense needs a speedy quarterback like Pryor or White. When Threet or Sheridan keeps the ball on the option, they sometimes break for a first down, but except for a 58-yard Threet rush against Wisconsin, they haven’t broken free for much more than that.
That’s why freshman Justin Feagin has seen the field this season. Despite his weak arm, he can break for a big run to invigorate the offense.
Don’t bother asking Rodriguez to explore this hypothetical. Time and time again he’s avoided talking about what’s happened in the past or players that are not currently playing for Michigan.
But considering what Pryor might have done for the Wolverines this season, it should be clear that Threet and Sheridan aren’t viable long-term options for this offense.
There’s a chance one will be the Wolverines’ starter next season, and odds are with one more year of experience they would have greater success than they have this time around. But in the long run, Rodriguez needs a dual-threat quarterback — not necessarily one equal to Pryor, but somewhere close.
Rodriguez has two dual-threat recruits, Tate Forcier and Shavodrick Beaver, verbally committed for next season. In time, they will lead the offense.
Even when that happens, a win over Ohio State isn’t guaranteed. But this “what-if” scenario won’t be as haunting.
—Sandals can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.