Terrelle Pryor will either fold under the pressure and be a huge bust, or he will battle through the intense criticism and make a lot of college football followers eat their words.
His coaches from high school predict it will be the latter.
"The thing about Terrelle is, the more you say negatives, the more he's going to prove you wrong," said Ray Reitz, Pryor's former head coach at Jeannette High School.
The Associated Press
Terrelle Pryor is dealing with heavy criticism during his sophomore year at Ohio State.
Seemingly the entire country has piled on Ohio State's quarterback recently. That includes yours truly, who wrote in this space two weeks ago that the heavily hyped Pryor is the biggest fraud in college football.
"Everybody's putting him under the bus," Reitz said. "I think it's totally unfair what they're doing to the kid."
Reitz is now head coach at Latrobe High School and was replaced at Jeannette by longtime assistant Roy Hall, who was Pryor's quarterbacks coach.
"Everybody's putting him under the bus. I think it's totally unfair what they're doing to the kid."
-- Ray Reitz, Pryor's former high school coach
"I'm a grown man, and I don't know with some of the things that I'd be able to handle, the pressure that he's been under," Hall said.
Pryor, the No. 1 recruit in the country two years ago, undoubtedly will be showered with loud boos when he makes his first appearance at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. The same Nittany Lion fans who desperately wanted the star athlete to come play at PSU surely have not forgotten how Pryor dissed Happy Valley's rural setting.
"I don't like that place," he said during the recruiting process. "It's the country."
If a kid is going to say cocky things like that, he'd better be able to back it up with his play on the field. Pryor hasn't come close to doing that or living up to his enormous hype.
But give him time, Reitz and Hall say, and the kid will emerge as a star.
"Everybody's just looking at Terrelle, they expect him to just step out there and do everything, they expect him to be perfect every play," Hall said. "People want to criticize him, but if they had to do it all over again, every school in the country would still be chomping at the bit to get him."
Hall, who talks with Pryor frequently and spoke with him after Saturday's game against New Mexico State, said the quarterback is aware of the criticism but doesn't pay attention to it.
"He realizes just because people talk bad about him, that can't stop him from going out the next day and being able to step up and perform," Hall said.
Pryor's statistics this season aren't great, but they're also not terrible. He's completing 54.6 percent of his passes for 1,543 yards with 13 TDs and nine interceptions. He also leads the Buckeyes in rushing with 554 yards and has scored six times.
Pryor may get a passing grade statistically, but the eye test is another matter. The sophomore looks like a deer in headlights a good bit of the time when he faces pressure, and his unorthodox throwing motion and struggles reading defenses make you wonder if he'll ever develop into an all-around quarterback.
"The maturation process is different for everybody," Reitz said. "I say you give him more time. ... If I'm starting a team, I want him as my quarterback because of the tremendous ability he does have."
Reitz believes Pryor will remain at quarterback in college and that he "could be a great pro." That last part is why he chose Ohio State in the first place.
"The offense Ohio State ran is more an NFL type, and that's one of the big reasons I think Terrelle chose that," Reitz said.
Reitz also believes Pryor made the right decision going to Columbus and insists he didn't try to influence that decision.
"What I told Terrelle was, 'You've got to live that life for four years, OK?'" Reitz said. "All these outsiders telling him where to go, he's the one that's got to live it. He likes Ohio State. He's very happy up there. So that's why I think he did make the right decision."
Reitz was quoted recently by espn.com questioning how Ohio State and coach Jim Tressel are using Pryor.
"They've put the reins on him, and they need to let him go free," Reitz said in that story. "When I watch Terrelle play right now, I see a robot."
Reitz contends he was misquoted in that story when it came to the best way to us Pryor.
"I never said Ohio State should do what Michigan or Oregon or anybody does," Reitz said before adding, "Now I get e-mails from Columbus people telling me why would I say that about Tressel. And I didn't say anything about Tressel."
The great irony is that Pryor went to Ohio State to prepare for the NFL, yet it's the Buckeyes' system that can't seem to best utilize his talents.
There's no question, either, that Pryor is a great talent. He's just not a good quarterback, something Penn State fans will see first hand for the first time at Beaver Stadium this week.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and email@example.com.