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Thursday, March 11, 2010
What if Tebow had taken Pryor's path?

By Jemele Hill
ESPN.com

When ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tim Tebow changed his throwing motion to become a better NFL quarterback prospect, the debate raged about whether Urban Meyer and the Florida coaching staff had done enough to make Tebow NFL ready.

Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow didn't have to change his approach to speed and strength. His passing, though, remains a question mark.

I believe they did. College coaches do have a responsibility to help their players transition to the NFL, the same responsibility chemistry professors have to equip students for the real world. Meyer made an earnest effort with Tebow, hiring Scot Loeffler, a pro-style quarterbacks coach who worked at Michigan and for the Detroit Lions, to help tweak Tebow's delivery heading into his senior season.

Although Tebow's throwing motion didn't undergo any drastic changes -- c'mon he was a Heisman Trophy winner, national champion and one of the most decorated players in college football history with a throwing motion that looked like a "Matrix" highlight -- there was another angle to this Tebow controversy that most people didn't consider.

What if Meyer had decided to completely alter Tebow's delivery? What if he had decided to let Tebow take more snaps under center? What if doing so had caused Florida and Tebow to struggle in games, and perhaps had led to Florida losing more games and maybe even costing the team a national championship? I'll tell you what would have happened to Florida and Tebow if Meyer had put even more emphasis into making Tebow into a better pro quarterback.

They would have walked a couple miles in Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor's cleats.

Pryor, if you recall, was one of the most sought-after players in the nation as a high school senior in 2008, and the reason he ultimately chose Ohio State was because he felt the Buckeyes would best prepare him for the pros.

Terrelle Pryor & Jim Tressel
Jim Tressel has been criticized for how he uses Terrelle Pryor, but he may be setting up his quarterback to succeed for years to come.

There is nothing wrong with Pryor having twin goals: help Ohio State win, but become a better pro in the process. The transition, though, hasn't been as smooth as Ohio State fans would like.

Before Pryor's two touchdowns and career-high 266 passing yards in Ohio State's 26-17 win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl earlier this year, there were whispers -- OK, booming voices -- that suggested Pryor would have been better off going to Michigan because of Rich Rodriguez's track record with mobile quarterbacks.

No question Pryor has had some ugly games as he has tried to develop into a traditional quarterback, and it's subjected him and coach Jim Tressel to some unrelenting criticism.

You can enter Pryor's name in any search engine and within a couple clicks you'll find plenty of people whining about Pryor's lack of ability as a traditional passer. Some also have accused Tressel of not only sacrificing the greater good of Ohio State's program to turn Pryor into something they don't believe he can be, but also of not taking full advantage of Pryor's running ability.

In sports, you're dogged if you do, dogged if you don't.

"For him, his biggest challenge is going to be developing underneath the center," said Charlie Batch, a backup quarterback for the Steelers who has mentored Pryor since he was a freshman in high school. "He really took off last year. Now he's starting to get to that point; a lot of the questions people had, he should be able to answer as the year goes on. Coaches have to be able to develop you without losing their job."

Quarterback coach Scot Loeffler and Tim Tebow
Scot Loeffler was brought in as QB coach before Tim Tebow's senior year to help turn him into a more pro-style quarterback.

There is so much pressure to win in college football that it's difficult for any college football coach to commit wholly to churning out the most effective pros, particularly if it comes at the program's expense.

Meyer developed an offense and game plans that played to Tebow's strengths, instead of focusing primarily on correcting Tebow's weaknesses. Even if he hadn't done that, I'm sure Tebow would still have to prove something to someone heading into the NFL draft.

I'm willing to bet that if Pryor had gone to Michigan like some people suggested, the naysayers would be lobbing the same criticisms at him that they are lobbing at Tebow right now.

Dogged if you do, dogged if you don't.

The Pryor-Tressel situation just shows there is never a move that will appease everyone. That's why Tressel deserves a lot of credit for riding out what has, at times, been a rocky road with Pryor. While Tressel isn't known for being the most liberal offensive coach, he could have taken the easy way out and designed an offense that focused only on Pryor's running abilities. Somehow the Buckeyes have managed to strike a balance between what's best for Pryor and what's best the program.

It hasn't always made their fans happy, but if Pryor's play in the Rose Bowl is any indication, he and his coach will soon be serving sautéed crow to a lot of people.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.

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