Should USC's defense be on Pryor notice?

September, 8, 2008
9/08/08
10:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- USC defense end Everson Griffen has a confession to make.

Yes, he prefers an opposing quarterback to be a big, lumbering pocket passer rather than an athletic scrambler.

 
 Matthew Emmons/US PRESSWIRE
 Freshman quarterback phenom Terrelle Pryor figures to play a role for the Buckeyes against USC.

"With a quarterback who scrambles around, you've just got to work that much harder to get the sack," he said. "Yeah, we like quarterbacks who stay in the pocket because they are right there waiting for you."

Right there waiting to get earholed.

Not so with a running QB.

USC also has a history vs. running QBs.

Washington's Jake Locker gave the Trojans some problems last year. And Oregon's Dennis Dixon beat them while rushing for 76 yards on 17 carries.

Finally, everyone remembers a noteworthy evening a few years back when a certain tall, highly athletic scrambler made USC's defense look discombobulated and, yes, very average.

Therein lies the intrigue of Ohio State freshman phenom Terrelle Pryor. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound dual-threat quarterback figures to be a part of the Buckeyes game plan Saturday at USC.

But how much? And is he going to go all Vince Young on the Trojans?

Everybody's got a theory.

"I think if [Ohio State running back] Chris Wells doesn't see much playing time, we'll see a lot of him, just to make us think about a running quarterback," Griffen said.

USC coach Pete Carroll said he expects Wells to play and he doesn't seem sold on his defense getting a heavy dose of Pryor.

"There's no way a quarterback can be ready with everything at this time -- they're doing a beautiful job of managing him," Carroll said. "I noticed when the [Ohio] game was tight they didn't play him very much."

That's because, for all the Pryor hype, Ohio State already has a pretty good quarterback in first-team All-Big-Ten performer Todd Boeckman, who's likely going to be far more comfortable on a big stage.

Boeckman threw for 2,379 yards and 25 TDs with 14 interceptions last year. He's no slouch. And, by the way, even at 6-4, 244 pounds, he's hardly immobile.

"He's got good arm strength and he can scramble too for a big guy," Griffen said.

Last year, Griffen was in a similar situation as Pryor. He was a touted freshman thrust into early playing time. Only it's that much harder when the freshman plays QB and the venue is the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum against the nation's No. 1 team.

"He's going to be nervous," Griffen said.

Linebacker Brian Cushing as a true freshman played against Young in the 2005 national title game.

(Question: "You played against Vince Young, right?" Cushing: [Flicker of a glower] "Oh yeah.")

"By the time Vince was doing it to us he was a redshirt junior in his fourth year in the program," Cushing said. "Terrelle is still young. He looks good in the game film. He can pass and run. He's going to be special in the future."

In other words, while Pryor adds another wrinkle for a defense to prepare for, the Trojans don't expect him to be a major headache until they make a return visit to Columbus in 2009.

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