Coach and quarterback -- gone in a span of eight days.
Pryor’s departure adds to the set of unique challenges Ohio State will face when the season rolls around. The quarterback had been a constant presence in the backfield since the first month of his freshman season. Pryor’s lengthy run as the starter leaves Ohio State with virtually no proven game experience at quarterback.
Ohio State knew it wouldn’t have Pryor for the first five games and prepared accordingly during spring practice. Quarterbacks Joe Bauserman, Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham and Braxton Miller shared snaps in practice and in the spring game, with predictably mixed results. Bauserman, who backed up Pryor the past two seasons, looks like the best bet to open the year at quarterback, but Pryor’s departure might change the scope of the race.
Rather than look for a temporary fill-in, Ohio State must identify a field general for the long haul. All four quarterbacks are very much in play and Miller, a talented true freshman who performed well in the spring game, is the most intriguing prospect. The quarterbacks all must shift their mind-set now: the starting job is there for the taking.
Ohio State also needs to monitor whether Pryor’s departure is the beginning of an exodus. Pryor is close with several of the other suspended players, namely wide receiver DeVier Posey. While the players’ attorney, Larry James, said no decisions have been made about additional departures, Pryor’s exit and the possibility of additional penalties from the NCAA makes anything possible. Posey is the team’s only proven receiver, so his presence following the five-game suspension seems critical. The NCAA is also looking into recent allegations surrounding several other Ohio State players, including a few key contributors.
Interim head coach Luke Fickell probably should write his depth chart in pencil.
The thing that hasn’t changed despite Pryor’s exit is the importance of Ohio State’s team leaders during a very difficult time. The coaching staff will do all it can, but Ohio State must be a player-driven team. Veterans like center Mike Brewster and safety Tyler Moeller will be instrumental in steadying the ship through some very choppy waters.
Ohio State remains a talented team with an impressive track record. These players know what it takes to win in the Big Ten. If they can continue their run of dominance, it will be one of the most impressive feats in recent college football history.
But the Buckeyes have never faced a set of challenges like this before.
Has any team?