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Checking in with Ohio State's Nick Siciliano

10/14/2009



Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor is the most analyzed and scrutinized player in the Big Ten. The former No. 1 recruit in the nation, who ascended to the starting job as a true freshman after only three games last season, has led the Buckeyes' offense for the past 16 games. Pryor has drawn mixed reviews so far in his career, showcasing his incredible natural talent at times but struggling to find the consistency many had expected. He led the league in pass efficiency last season and was a surprise pick as Big Ten preseason offensive player of the year in July. His numbers have dipped a bit this year, but he's still fairly early in his development.

Buckeyes quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano spends more time with Pryor than anybody else, and like the quarterback, Siciliano has drawn his share of criticism. I caught up with Siciliano last week -- before the Wisconsin game -- to discuss Pryor's progress.

Where is Terrelle in terms of where you thought he'd be at this point in the season? Ahead of expectations? Behind them?

Nick Siciliano: We believe he's right where we thought he'd be. Of course, we'd always like him to be playing better. That's obvious. But he takes every week very seriously and he attacks the game plan like nobody I've seen. He wants to be great, and he's trying to do everything he can to help this team.

He relied so much on instincts in high school and it carried him a long way. The college game is a completely different animal. Do you see him display those same instincts? Is he comfortable using that natural ability?

NS: Some of those instincts are innate. He's relying on them when he has to. The good thing is, he hasn't lost them, which would not be such a great thing. He's learning when to and when not to, which is critical.

Is there ever a concern that a guy could lose those instincts because he's so focused on the game plan?

NS: Oh, yeah, that could happen to a guy. I don't think that's happened with Terrelle, but that could definitely happen. Sometimes you get paralysis by analysis.

You've mentioned that his footwork has been a big area of improvement. How do you see that play out in a game?

NS: With knowledge becomes power, and as he learns more, everything else mechanically is going to get better because you don't have to think as much. His footwork is getting better. It's a lot smoother than it was when he got here. In fact, we were watching some tape of the Wisconsin game last year. Just to watch him in practice [last week] and then watch tape of the game last year was incredible. After so many reps, some of the things become a lot easier for you. It's not a fact of he didn't know what he was doing. You just build up muscle memory.

He talked about being frustrated with his interceptions this season. From a mental standpoint, how intense is he in terms of approaching the job?

NS: He's a perfectionist. He doesn't like to make mistakes. He doesn't care if it's a handoff and he's supposed to step at 6 o'clock and he steps at 7. It bothers him not to be perfect on every play.

Do you have to remind him that he's still a young player so he doesn't get too down?

NS: You've got to remind him every day. He's still young. He's a second-year sophomore. He didn't have the ability of Colt McCoy or those guys who were able to sit through a year and learn a little bit more. You've always got to make sure that your trigger guy has got some confidence.

Mistakes are a part of the game. How has he dealt with making them? He seemed to handle the USC loss better than last year's game against Penn State. Is he maturing in that way?

NS: There's no question. His maturity level is really getting better. We always talk to him about being able to handle adversity, but the hardest thing is really handling success. So, we'll have to see how that goes, too. Hopefully, we can have some and see how he does there. He's done a much better job of handling adverse situations.

Does it ever amaze you how much attention there is on him? It's a big position, but he's always in the spotlight.

NS: He is, and sometimes that's a hard thing to deal with. He's still a young kid and there's a lot of eyes on him. That's why we always talk to him about, 'No matter what you do, all eyes are on you.' He's just got to understand that. That's part of being the quarterback here at Ohio State. The only difference was when Mike Tomczak was the quarterback, there wasn't all this media. But everybody that came to the game would watch Mike Tomczak.

What areas do you want to see him improve to take the next step in his development?

NS: Every day we work on certain things, depending on what we might be doing for the week. It's always footwork and timing. Whether you've played one year or 20 years, you still need to work on your footwork and your timing because each play is different, and you don't get to throw the ball on rhythm every play. You need to work on those things. The one thing about him is he attacks everything like it's going to be the last thing he does. That's really important for a young guy to understand that. He really takes pride in working hard. And a lot of the development he's had is because he took his own time during the winter and worked himself with some wideouts, with some tight ends, with some running backs.

People watch Terrelle and wonder why he doesn't run the ball on every play. How comfortable are you guys with how much he's running or the run-pass mix right now?

NS: We're pretty confident and secure about what's happened so far. If we can keep him at about the same pace, that would be great, we think. He's done a good job of knowing when to run and when not to. And in five games, there's probably been a play a game that he probably needed to run and he didn't or needed to throw the ball and he didn't.

Is it important to him not to only be a runner?

NS: He's got goals and he knows he wants to go to the NFL, and that's important for us. We want guys who want to be great. We don't want guys who don't have aspirations of going to the NFL because then, they're not going to work hard enough to get there. We want him to pursue that goal, and in order for him to reach that, he's got to work every day at being a better quarterback.