The last time Terrelle Pryor visited Ann Arbor, students living on Greenwood Ave. planned a block party in his honor.
That was in Jan. 2008 when Pryor was a high school senior mulling offers from Michigan and Ohio State. He was set to become the future quarterback at one end of the greatest rivalry in college football. But the party was flagged as a violation of NCAA rules before it even happened — the founders had to dissociate Pryor’s name from the event — and well, the ending to the second part is pretty obvious.
On March 18, 2008, just days after the Wolverines started spring practice, Pryor held a news conference to tell Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez and the world he would become a Buckeye. But he didn’t do it without a little remorse.
“I feel bad because I said ‘No’ to Michigan,” Pryor said at the time. “I had so much of a bond with coach Rodriguez and (recruiting coordinator) Tony Gibson. They just had hopes on me, but I let them down.”
This weekend, the sophomore makes his first trip to the Big House when his tenth-ranked Buckeyes (6-1 Big Ten, 9-2 overall) face unranked Michigan (1-6, 5-6).
Rodriguez heavily recruited Pryor, even after the nation’s top prospect chose to delay his decision until six weeks after National Signing Day. Rodriguez said this week that he hasn’t spoken with Pryor since his recruitment more than 20 months ago.
“I didn’t seek him out after last year’s game,” Rodriguez said. “I would have liked to shake his hand and congratulate him.”
In the midst of a six-game conference losing streak, Rodriguez continues to defend his spread-option system. And the numbers back him up: the Wolverines lead the Big Ten in scoring offense and have scored 30 points or more in six games.
But even with that potency, one can’t ignore how seamlessly Pryor would have fit in.
When asked who would simulate Pryor in practice this week, Rodriguez didn’t hesitate.
“You find a guy, 6’6” that runs a 4.3 — if I had him, he probably wouldn’t be on the scout team,” Rodriguez said with a laugh.
Either of Michigan’s freshman quarterbacks, Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson, could start against the Buckeyes, but history isn’t on their side. Since freshmen became eligible to play in 1972, true freshman quarterbacks are 1-4 in The Game, with Pryor getting the only victory last season.
This year, Pryor is the only Big Ten player to rank in the top 10 in both rushing (57.5 yards per game) and passing (160.1 ypg). He also boasts an impressive 16 total touchdowns.
And when it comes to size and strength, Pryor clearly has Michigan’s signal callers beat.
At 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, his power rivals that of Wisconsin running back John Clay, who trounced the Wolverines last week in Madison for 151 yards. If a defender doesn’t reach him quickly, Pryor can break a tackle with ease, and his dangerous stiff arm could be troublesome Saturday.
“They’ll run some speed option with Terrelle and do some things on the perimeter,” Rodriguez said. “But they’ll drop-back pass, too. Make no question about it, I think they don’t mind dropping back and throwing some routes, throwing some deep balls with him.”