Ohio State Buckeyes: Terrelle Pryor

Big Ten writers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett occasionally will give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which writer is correct.

Cleveland.com recently completed its three-year retrospective on Ohio State's tattoo/merchandise scandal with a story about Terrelle Pryor. The former Buckeyes quarterback, who committed multiple NCAA violations, departed the program in June 2011, a week after coach Jim Tressel resigned under pressure. In July 2011, Ohio State declared Pryor ineligible for the 2011 season and banned the quarterback from any association with the program for five years, citing his unwillingness to cooperate with school and NCAA investigators.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesFormer Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor wants to reconcile with Ohio State. Does the school want the same?
Pryor would one day like to reconcile with his old school:
"I'd love to, if I'm invited or accepted, I'd love to. I don't want to cause any type of thing. I just want everything to be smooth. Even if I could talk to the guys about not taking things and being smart about the people you deal with, I'd love to do that one day, if the coaches are up to it or the head people at Ohio State are up to it. But that's a couple years away."
Today's Take Two topic: Should Ohio State reopen its doors to Pryor after the five-year ban expires in 2016?

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

The wound is still fresh for some Buckeyes fans, who regard Pryor a half-step above anyone associated with the University of Michigan. His actions contributed to the program's backslide -- Ohio State hasn't won a Big Ten title or a bowl since Pryor's final game in January 2011 -- but he's hardly the only one at fault. Pryor isn't the reason Tressel had to resign. Tressel made poor decisions that led to his resignation, and while he certainly felt an attachment to Pryor -- he does to this day -- that's not Pryor's fault.

Ohio State received a bowl ban because of its casual approach to the NCAA infractions process, and the second wave of allegations that arrived in the fall of 2011. Pryor was a highly immature, overly entitled player who made some very poor choices during his Buckeyes career. But this scandal went way beyond one person.

Pryor absolutely should be welcomed back to the program after five years. Americans are typically a forgiving lot, and college football fans have forgiven a lot worse characters than Terrelle Pryor. He never committed a violent crime. He never had academic issues and actually was an Academic All-Big Ten selection at Ohio State. He said and did some stupid things at Ohio State, but he also helped the Buckeyes win a lot of games and excelled in BCS bowls, especially the 2010 Rose Bowl.

At some point, Pryor should walk through the doors of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center again. While I wonder about his maturity, his story could be a cautionary tale for the current players who face constant temptation in a city obsessed with Buckeyes football. There's value in a reconciliation, and I hope to see it happen.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

Time heals all wounds. I was at the Michigan game in 2012 when Tressel got a loud, standing ovation from the crowd at the 'Shoe, even though he was the very person most responsible for that being Ohio State's final game and not a possible entry point toward a championship run. Of course, Tressel had built up more goodwill than Pryor, but it showed that Ohio State fans are willing to forgive one of their own.

It also helps that Pryor's mistakes didn't doom the program. Sure, the 2011 season was one of the worst in recent Buckeyes history, but they still went to a bowl and then bounced right back after hiring Urban Meyer by going on a 24-game winning streak. The tattoo scandal seems rather petty in hindsight, especially in light of all the calls for more money and benefits for college athletes that are dominating the landscape right now. Pryor has appeared to be a solid citizen since leaving Ohio State and even has made an impact in the NFL.

His No. 2 is never going to be retired, and maybe Pryor will never receive more than polite applause if he returns to an Ohio State sideline someday. But there's no need for him to be a complete pariah when his disassociation with the program concludes. If you're going to talk about a football program being a family, then you're going to have to accept some family members who have been difficult to love at times. And maybe most importantly, Pryor can offer some life lessons to younger Buckeyes players and hopefully help them avoid some of the same mistakes that stained an otherwise successful career.

Big Ten lunch links

June, 9, 2014
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Get well soon, Tracy Morgan.


Several coaches close to Jim Tressel whom I spoke to for this story in November held out hope that he would one day return to the sideline.

They also knew his interest in education -- teaching, mentoring and administration -- wasn't just something to fill his days until the next coaching opportunity came along. Tressel was mentioned as a candidate to join Jim Caldwell's staff with the Detroit Lions in January, but he stayed at Akron as the school's vice president for student success and soon applied for the president positions at both Akron and Youngstown State, where he coached from 1986 to 2000 and won four Division I-AA national championships.

Akron selected another candidate on Thursday, but Youngstown State's trustees on Friday voted to offer the position to Tressel. He had been one of three finalists at both schools.

"Mr. Tressel has the personality and leadership skills, in addition to widespread community support, to dramatically raise YSU’s profile and prominence across Ohio and the nation," Youngstown State board of trustees chairman Sudershan Garg said in a statement.

Tressel's appointment won't be finalized until contract terms are reached.

Earlier this month at a public forum in Youngstown, Tressel told a questioner that his coaching days are over.

He left the door open a little more when we spoke in November, but his interest in education came across as sincere, including how he taught a coaching staff with Jim Dennison and how he interacted with students around campus.

"We're mediocre in the world in education," Tressel told me. "We're not at the top of the heap. I don't like being mediocre. I want every kid to get that job they're looking for. It drives you every day to figure out how we can get 26,000 to 27,000 kids to succeed. That's as tough of a game as there is."

Tressel's coaching friends wanted him back in the game, not just because of the success he had but because of the way things ended at Ohio State. But his own pull to the sideline didn't seem as strong.

He wasn't overtly bitter about Ohio State, and while he still spends much of the fall around football, he seemed to get his competitive fill from being a top administrator at Akron.

"Jim is a lot more comfortable in a shirt and tie than most coaches," Akron coach Terry Bowden said. "I don't think there are many coaches in the country that are as comfortable in the administrative side of colleges as Jim Tressel. So I wouldn't be surprised if that's where he finishes his career."

It appears that will be the case. Tressel knows Youngstown and immediately enhances the school's profile as president. The job is largely about fundraising, an area where he will undoubtedly excel.

Tressel has trouble spots in his past, including some during his coaching tenure at Youngstown State. People remember Ray Isaac and Maurice Clarett and the Tat-5 scandal. Tressel is still under a show-cause penalty from the NCAA. These issues will be brought up as he begins his new role.

But college presidents aren't saints. Neither are coaches, despite the image Tressel often portrayed. Tressel has his flaws, but I found it interesting that two of his former players he talks to the most -- Clarett and Terrelle Pryor -- are the ones who most damaged his reputation. You can't say he doesn't care about helping people.

Bottom line: You look at what college presidents do and where the job will be, and Tressel looks like a good fit. He reportedly wanted the Youngstown job more than the Akron one, and he remains extremely popular in the Youngstown community.

He has turned a page on his career. So should we.
Enjoy the Final Four. And for you Michigan fans out there, enjoy the spring game at the Big House.

Don't forget: Twitter!

To the inbox ...

Kenny from Cincy writes: I was comparing on-the-field accomplishments of the past two Ohio State QBs and I feel like Terrelle Pryor has had a better career (you know, despite crippling the program the next year but I feel like most in Buckeye land have forgiven him). Pryor: 3 Big Ten championships, a Rose Bowl win, and a Sugar Bowl win over a SEC team in three years (I know the games were vacated, but it did happen). Braxton Miller: 0-2 in bowls and 0 Big Ten championships, but two Silver Footballs and 24 wins in a row are nice. My question is, due to the expectations that QBs like Troy Smith and Pryor elevated, do you think Miller has to win a Big Ten championship or more this year or will the Braxton Miller years be seen as a failure in Buckeyes fans' eyes?

Adam Rittenberg: Kenny, this is a really interesting debate regarding each quarterback's legacy. There's no doubt Miller has accomplished more individually than Pryor. He could be the first Big Ten player to win three offensive player of the year awards. He likely would have won a Big Ten championship in 2012 if Ohio State had been eligible for postseason play, but when you look at macro team accomplishments -- league titles and BCS bowl wins -- Pryor definitely gets the edge. He likely was an ill-timed blitz away from having a third BCS bowl win in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl against Texas. One big difference is Pryor played on teams with much better defenses. Miller had several reasons to return for his senior season, and winning a Big Ten title certainly is one of them.


Joe from Phoenix writes: I don't understand everyone's love for a nine-game conference schedule. I do not believe rematches in college football are a good thing, as it makes the first game irrelevant. With a nine-game schedule, you almost guarantee a rematch in the championship game. Why not schedule one more "quality" nonconference game? That way all Big Ten schools have an opportunity to have one more win on their record, and look better for the bowl committees.

Adam Rittenberg: Joe, I hear you and it definitely increases the likelihood of a rematch in the Big Ten championship, but I also see the league's viewpoint. It wants a greater schedule rotation to enhance your product week after week. It wants players to face every league team at least once in a four-year period. I also think it's tricky to demand another quality nonleague game in place of the ninth Big Ten contest. Some schools would step up, but you need teams from other power conferences to play ball, too, which is no guarantee. I also think some schools would schedule cupcakes. Bowl committees rarely care about strength of schedule.


Joe from South Bend, Ind., writes: Adam, what was maybe one thing you found impressive with your visit to Happy Valley and was your one big takeaway?

Adam Rittenberg: Joe, I'm very impressed with James Franklin's staff. They're very sharp guys who know how to keep the energy level high and relate well to a group of new players. Everyone knows that Franklin operates in fifth gear, but his assistants do, too, and there's tremendous cohesion with the staff. It would have been much harder if the staff lacked familiarity as it tried to get to know the players. My big takeaway: Penn State's defense is much further along than the offense, and the Lions likely will need to win low-scoring games this fall. Coordinator Bob Shoop has a good plan and inherits some good pieces. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg is a once-in-a-generation type quarterback, but he'll face more pressure this year because of the issues with the offensive line.


Kevin from Las Vegas writes: Is history the only thing that qualifies a team for elite status? Wisconsin is seen as a sleeper in the B1G, and two years ago they were "elite." Michigan and Ohio State would never be considered "sleepers," even after down years. Is this simply because of historic achievements (lots of national championships when Teddy Roosevelt was president), branding (our helmets have wings!), or lazy writers (not you guys, of course)? Do teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State or Iowa ever really have a shot of being elite because their legacy doesn't include deep history?

Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, it's a good point to raise, especially because I think Michigan State is being overlooked heading into 2014 just because it hasn't been a traditional power. You hear a lot about Ohio State making a run for the College Football Playoff, but Michigan State dominated the Big Ten last year (nine wins by 10 or more points), won the Rose Bowl and brings back quarterback Connor Cook and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, among others. Wisconsin has gained national respect in the past 20-plus years, but the Badgers also recently lost three consecutive Rose Bowls, which hurt their cause. Iowa has had its moments but lacks the consistency of Wisconsin. Michigan State, meanwhile, really has it rolling under Mark Dantonio. At some point, the Spartans need to be viewed as elite for what's happening now, not in the past.


Charlie from Chicago writes: What recruits in the conference are due to have breakout seasons in their freshman year?

Adam Rittenberg: There are potentially quite a few this year, Charlie. Early enrollees have an advantage, so keep an eye on players such as Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan, Michigan WR Freddy Canteen, Ohio State WR Johnnie Dixon and Penn State WR De'Andre Thompkins. Other potential impact recruits arriving in the summer include Michigan CB Jabrill Peppers (the Big Ten's top-rated recruit in the 2014 class), Illinois DE Jihad Ward (junior college transfer), Minnesota RB Jeff Jones and Michigan State DT Malik McDowell, whom Mark Dantonio gushed about Wednesday after he finally signed.

Ultimate 300: Big Ten's top recruits 

January, 29, 2014
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There have been plenty of memorable prospects and players to come through the Big Ten, but RecruitingNation's scouts have put together their Ultimate ESPN 300 list of top recruits.

Here are the top five Big Ten recruits who made the list:

Team in transition: Ohio State 

November, 26, 2013
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Editor's note: New coaches inherit a blank slate and often, an empty house. But new coaches who take positions at schools rocked by scandal face special challenges. Here's a look at how Ohio State is rebounding from that situation.

Jim Tressel's tenure at Ohio State began to unravel when it was revealed some of his players received cash and tattoos in exchange for memorabilia. Things turned for the worse when Tressel didn't bring the infractions to light when the NCAA questioned the allegations.

Ohio State received a one-year bowl ban and had its scholarship total trimmed from 85 to 82 for three seasons. The Buckeyes also voluntarily vacated their 2010 Sugar Bowl season. This year is the last in which current coach Urban Meyer and Co. have to deal with those sanctions.


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Jordan Hall watched most of Ohio State's 12-0 season from the sideline with mixed emotions.

"It was tough to watch and miss," Hall told ESPN.com. "I played in two and a half games or something. I was happy for my team, but I just wanted to be out there so bad."

[+] EnlargeJordan Hall
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesHealthy again, RB Jordan Hall is giving Ohio State options within its offense.
The running back figured to be out there a lot for Ohio State after the team completed spring practice last April. New head coach Urban Meyer singled out Hall as one of few bright spots for an offense he called a "clown show." But Hall's fortunes turned in late June, when he cut his foot on a broken glass bottle strewn in the front yard of his residence.

The "freak accident" set off a series of setbacks for Hall, the Buckeyes' likely starting running back before his injury. After undergoing surgery, missing preseason camp and the first two games, Hall returned in Week 3 against Cal but suffered a partial tear of his PCL two weeks later at Michigan State. He sat out the rest of the season and received a medical hardship. This spring, the coaches moved Hall to the slotback role where Percy Harvin had shined in Meyer's spread offense, and Hall had a strong start to the session before being slowed by a hamstring injury.

"I just want to get out there," Hall said. "I had to miss a lot of time."

Hall is back to full strength this summer and looks forward to going through a full preseason in the offense. The slotback role is similar to what Hall played in high school, when he teamed with former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in Jeannette, Pa.

Hall also has slimmed down 10-12 pounds from his 2012 playing weight and checks in at 191 pounds, the lightest he has been since high school.

"I feel a lot better in and out of my cuts," said Hall, who had 653 rush yards, 197 receiving yards and 1,494 return yards in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. "Top-end and everything, it just feels better. I feel like I'm hitting a gear I never really hit before. I'm 100 percent healthy, so I feel like I’m ready to go."

Ohio State took no chances with Hall after the hamstring injury this spring, and Hall admits he wasn't completely ready when he returned to the field last season.

"I didn’t really get to do the summer conditioning, none of the summer training, none of that," he said. "I was just lifting upper body, running on the underwater treadmill a little bit and then I practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the Cal week and then I played. I feel my leg just wasn't ready for competition, and that's what made me have my knee [injury]."

Hall looks forward to his first full preseason in the Meyer-led offense and recognizes the competition at his position will heat up. Chris Fields had a strong spring, and incoming freshmen Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall could fill the slotback role.

As a fifth-year senior who served as a co-captain before last season, Hall isn't concerned about re-proving himself to the coaches, especially Meyer.

"He's just always on me, [asking] if I'm catching, am I with the quarterbacks, am I doing my rehab," Hall said. "He's just making sure I’m ready to go. He has seen what I can do, and he says I can be a great player if I can stay healthy and do all the right things.

"Everyone's excited."

Hall's Twitter page contains the following words below his avatar: "This year I said it's all business." He has been through a lot Ohio State -- from off-field issues to moderate success to injuries -- and he wants to complete his comeback and be a part of another special season.

"I've just got tunnel vision," he said. "I'm not going to have any distractions. My only focus is football, really, and school. This is my last go-round, so I'm putting everything into it."
With apologies to Joe Bauserman and Todd Boeckman, there’s a certain quarterback Ohio State wants these days.

For the most part, it started when Troy Smith took over for Justin Zwick as the signal-caller and has continued ever since.


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Triple threats: Jordan Hall

January, 28, 2013
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Everybody is chasing the elite recruits, and championships aren't usually won unless there's a pretty impressive constellation of four- and five-star athletes on a roster.

But those guys also aren't typically solely responsible for taking a program to the next level, and it can often come down to which coaching staffs properly identify and develop the players without as much buzz coming out of high school -- or the ones intent on proving those doubts wrong at the next level.

BuckeyeNation will look at five of those players on the Ohio State roster that will be key to making a title run, all of them capable of outplaying that three-star label.

[+] EnlargeJordan Hall
Rick Ostentoski/US PresswireJordan Hall wasn't an elite recruit, but he has already made his mark on Ohio State despite injury.
No. 5: Jordan Hall

  • Who: The senior running back was forced to redshirt due to a pair of injuries that limited him to just three games in a season that had once held a lot of promise for the projected starter in the backfield. He was productive in his two complete outings, rushing for 192 yards on 34 carries in nonconference wins over California and UAB, and with plenty of time to heal and the decision made to return, he'll once again have a shot at playing a significant role for the Buckeyes before leaving campus.
  • Then: There were some questions about his durability when he signed back in 2009 out of Jeannette (Pa.) High School, though his relative lack of size when he was listed at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds certainly had no impact on the fluke injury he suffered last summer when he cut his foot on a piece of glass and required surgery that kept him out of training camp and the first two games. The scouting report praised his ability to hit the hole decisively, make defenders miss and his hands -- and with a potential role as a hybrid weapon available for him in Urban Meyer's spread offense, that last trait could be critical.
  • They said it: "Hall may have played in the shadow of Terrelle Pryor last year but is a good player in his own right and a versatile running back prospect. ... Overall, Hall is a well-rounded back that will be highly sought after because of his versatility as a runner. Projects best in a zone-read type offense, similar to what he played in at high school, which will utilize his quickness and soft hands in space. Skills in the return game add to his upside." -- RecruitingNation in 2009
  • Now: Elected a captain even while battling through his freak injury a year ago, Hall's work ethic and experience will again provide veteran leadership and help set the tone for the Buckeyes. He isn't likely to take back the starting gig that Carlos Hyde flourished in down the stretch last season, with the bigger, more bruising rusher forming a dynamic one-two punch with quarterback Braxton Miller and piling up touchdowns in the red zone. But Meyer had plans for using both of them in the backfield with Miller before injuries scrapped them, and Hall can do some things as a receiver that will bring some variety to the offense and another element of danger for a unit already returning almost every starter from the Big Ten's most explosive offense.
Braxton Miller Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times/Getty ImagesBraxton Miller already has the title for single-season yards, but the real total compiled by Terrelle Pryor has been wiped out of the record books.

Ohio State hardly needs motivation thanks to the chip on its shoulder already firmly in place after sitting out the postseason with a perfect record. But just in case any players required any extra fuel heading into workouts or wanted a little help putting together some goals, BuckeyeNation is here to lend a hand with some records that could be in reach with another productive offseason.

TOTAL OFFENSE

  • Who owns it: Braxton Miller already has officially taken the crown after putting up 3,310 yards as a sophomore, sneaking past Bobby Hoying's single-season mark of 3,290 despite not getting the chance to play in the Big Ten title game or a bowl. The true bar Miller has to clear, though, no longer shows up in the record book for the Buckeyes -- and there's still some work to be done to surpass the 3,526 yards Terrelle Pryor rolled up in 2010 that have since been erased from existence.
  • Who wants it: Might be pretty obvious, but Miller will be chasing down this record and plenty more heading into his third season as the starting quarterback. Individual numbers and awards don't seem to matter much to the humble leader of the Ohio State offense, but he should be in line to post more video-game statistics as he continues to develop his game and get more comfortable in Urban Meyer's system.
  • Relevant number: Miller just barely topped 2,000 passing yards last season, and while that represented marked improvement for the Buckeyes through the air, Meyer is clearly expecting that total to go up next fall. Miller only would have needed to throw for 18 more yards per game to tie Pryor, a reasonable amount that could come fairly easily if improved mechanics and ability to read defenses bumps up his completion percentage a few more points from the 58.3 he turned in as a sophomore.
  • Offseason checklist: The Buckeyes clearly had no problem getting production out of Miller during the perfect season, and at times he looked like the only consistent threat on the field. But there have also been regular reminders from Meyer and the coaching staff that the multitalented star has only scratched the surface as a quarterback, with his footwork on top of the list of things to focus on during offseason throwing sessions, spring practice and training camp. Everything starts from the ground up with Miller, and while his happy feet make him electrifying as a rusher, they can throw off his delivery as a passer in the pocket and mask his arm strength, making them a top priority over the next few months.
  • Attainable goal: The record is officially already his, so there's not much question Miller is capable of reaching it. But with the possibility of two more games next season and an offense loaded with experienced playmakers around him, from an offensive line with four returning starters to two established targets at wide receiver and a full stable of running backs, Miller and the Buckeyes should have no problem piling up offense.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel paid the heaviest price in the tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal, but the school's compliance department took a beating as well.

The details that emerged about Ohio State's compliance structure -- or lack thereof -- didn't paint the athletic department in a good light. Ohio State in February approved a new university compliance office, and the school appears to be taking the right steps to prevent similar violations from happening again.

As The Toledo Blade first reported this week, Ohio State sent the NCAA a 805-page report that, among other things, details new policies in place that increase athlete education about violations, prevent memorabilia sales and track car ownership (a major issue with former quarterback Terrelle Pryor). Ohio State is directly addressing the issues that surfaced in the scandal.

Check out the full report.

From The Blade:
An athletics compliance staff bolstered from five workers to a dozen is leaving little to chance. According to the report reviewed by The Blade, the school nearly tripled its number of rules education sessions, charged a former NCAA investigator with monitoring its highest-profile players, and reached out to 2,000 area businesses -- then employs exhaustive measures to verify the lessons take hold.

Among the safeguards include random audits to ensure current players have not sold or exchanged gear or awards, and license-plate software that allows school officials to determine car ownership.

One of the most publicized elements of the old compliance structure was the lack of a staff member in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Ohio State's football headquarters. Ohio State added former Tennessee compliance director Brad Bertani to its staff to deal specifically with football. Bertani has his office in the WHAC and travels with the football team.

Ohio State is also focused on ensuring no school-issued memorabilia is sold while athletes are still playing.
Players used to be able to purchase and take home gear and apparel like bowl-game jerseys or the alternate Nike helmets worn against Michigan in 2009 and 2010. Now, the uniforms will be kept in a secure container at the football facility until the player leaves the school.

As for awards like Big Ten championship rings or the gold pants trinket the Buckeyes receive for beating Michigan, players can still take those home. But they must be able to produce the goods in "random audits." Athletes sign a form acknowledging the school can make them "prove that I have not sold these items."

These are encouraging steps for a department that justifiably took a beating after the scandal. While time will tell how effective these measures will be, Ohio State deserves credit for directly addressing some major problems.

Terrelle Pryor mentor Ted Sarniak dies

July, 22, 2012
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One of the tangential figures in the downfall of Jim Tressel and NCAA sanctions died this weekend.

Jeannette, Pa., businessman Ted Sarniak III, died on Friday at a Pittsburgh-area hospital, according to the funeral home handling the arrangements. He was 68.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Across The Field: Buckeye links

June, 19, 2012
6/19/12
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Welcome to Across The Field, a regular feature on BuckeyeNation where we'll point you to noteworthy Buckeyes coverage here and elsewhere. Think something should be included? Send a pitch to espnkendrick@gmail.com.

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