|ESPN.com: Big Ten||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
CHICAGO -- Ohio State senior tight end Jake Ballard didn't have to search for the subtle signs showing Terrelle Pryor's growth as a leader this summer.
Pryor made it plainly obvious during 7-on-7 workouts.
If a Buckeyes receiver dropped a pass, Pryor let him have it.
"If you drop one or two balls, he's going to try and get you out of there and put somebody else in," Ballard said. "If it hit your hands, he's going to take you out. He demands a lot from us and we demand a lot from him, and all of us know we can handle it."
The trust between the quarterback and his teammates wasn't as strong in 2008, when Pryor replaced senior co-captain Todd Boeckman just four games into the fall. Though Pryor had his share of highlights and won Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, he struggled to find a consistent rhythm with his receivers.
Ohio State finished a woeful 105th nationally in pass offense, and Pryor took time to grow into the leadership role thrust upon him prematurely.
"All of us feel a greater sense of comfort, including Terrelle," Ballard said. "He's not the freshman that hasn't played before going into the huddle with all seniors and juniors, who are like, 'Where's Todd?' When it first happened, everybody's like, 'Wow, Todd's really not playing and we have to trust this kid, Terrelle.'
"Now Terrelle's more of a leader type. He commands our attention, and we give it to him."
Ballard avoided Pryor's wrath during the summer workouts, hanging onto the passes that came his way. It helped that Pryor looked more often to the tight ends, who have been used sparingly as pass receivers in the past.
Ballard expects to see more action this fall. Ohio State loses two standout receivers in Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline, and head coach Jim Tressel has greater trust in Pryor to run a more wide-ranging offense.
"TP's not just looking for receivers to get the ball," Ballard said. "He's looking to tight ends, running backs, fullbacks. If you're open, he's going to hit you. I really think we're going to have a bigger role in the offense. Coach Tress has talked about it."
Pryor's evolution this summer was also visible to those on the other side of the line.
"He has to take command and he has to be the leader," safety Kurt Coleman said. "And if you're not doing it right, he's going to tell you what you're doing wrong until you correct yourself. Honestly, he's improved his game so much."