Picking sides in the Griffin vs. Pryor QB debate, plus more Mailbag
Robert Griffin is electrifying, but Terrelle Pryor could soon be the nation's best
If Roy Williams couldn't win the Heisman, Taylor Mays and Eric Berry won't
Inside the Rose Bowl changes, Cal's QB struggles, major Crush news and more
As you're undoubtedly aware, preseason practices begin at most campuses this week. At some, like USC, you can essentially walk in off the street and watch every drill. At others, like Ohio State, you would need to scale a fence and/or fight off attack dogs just to catch a glimpse of the Buckeyes stretching.
It might actually be worth the potential injury risk to sneak into an OSU practice this month, if only to see the electrifying and rapidly advancing Terrelle Pryor running a new offense (modeled off Nevada's "pistol" attack) purportedly tailored to his strengths as a playmaker. My colleague Andy Staples attended the Buckeyes' spring game and came away extremely impressed -- which is saying something since Andy is an unabashed SEC homer.
Then again, if you're anxious to watch a dynamic young QB, you could save yourself the trouble and simply go to Baylor instead.
Would you rather have Robert Griffin or Terrelle Pryor leading your team for the next three years? Pryor gets all the hype and has more talent around him, but Griffin is faster, quicker and a MUCH better passer.
This summer I've received numerous e-mails like this from those in the Lone Star State. It seems Baylor fans -- energized by the first exciting player on their team since J.J. Joe (still my all-time favorite name) -- are hell-bent on reminding the rest of us they had their own freshman sensation at quarterback last year.
They've had it up to here with all the Pyror hype, and for good reason. Griffin is the real deal, folks. See for yourself. He's possibly the fastest player in the country (he barely missed making last year's Olympic team in the 400-meter hurdles) -- and he plays quarterback. Think Pat White with an even quicker stutter-step.
Is he faster than Pryor? Yes, absolutely. Pryor is more of a Tim Tebow/stiff-arm kind of runner. I disagree with Nick, however, over his assertion Griffin is a "MUCH better passer." I don't know how we would even know that yet.
Yes, Griffin put up better numbers last season, throwing for 2,091 yards and an impressive 15-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Pryor, by comparison, threw for 1,311 yards, 12 TDs and four INTs. However, Griffin was playing in coach Art Briles' wide-open passing offense, which revolved almost entirely around him. Ohio State's coaches kept the training wheels on Pryor, who also had the luxury of handing off to star RB Beanie Wells about 20 to 25 times a game.
Even with those limitations, though, you could still see Pryor has a cannon arm. Most impressive, you could see just how lethal he is throwing on the run. (Want an example? Check out the ridiculous throw he makes at the 5:28 mark in this clip.)
So I'm sorry, Nick, but I'm taking Pryor. Not only is he a more naturally gifted passer, he's a 6-foot-6, 235-pound quarterback who can run. (Griffin is 6-3, 210.) Hey may not be highlight-reel fast, but with that size and strength it doesn't matter because defenders can't bring him down. I sincerely hope Griffin leads the long-beleaguered Bears to the promised land (a bowl game), but I truly believe Pryor will become the most dominant player in the country over the next two years.
Since USC's Taylor Mays and Tennessee's Eric Berry have both expressed serious interest in winning the Heisman, will the their respective campaigns hurt or help the other in the bigger order of things?
It can only help, because it's like a joint-awareness campaign for safeties. I've even got a slogan for them: "Safeties come first."
Campaign or not, we all know it's extremely difficult for a defensive player -- even one as accomplished as Mays or Berry (both of whom were first team All-Americas last year) -- to win the Heisman. And of course, the pair is attempting to do so in a year when two Heisman-winning quarterbacks (Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford) and a third who easily could have won last season (Colt McCoy) are headlining the race. Talk about bad timing.
The single most important factor in winning the Heisman is big performances in big games. The last defensive player I truly believed should have won the Heisman was Oklahoma safety Roy Williams in 2001. Not only was he the most dominant defensive player in the country, but he made arguably the play of the season with his leaping sack/forced-fumble-turned-pick-six against Texas' Chris Simms. Williams finished seventh in the voting that year, behind six quarterbacks.
Mays (against Ohio State) and Berry (against Florida) will both have opportunities to produce their own Williams-esque moments early in the season. Still, even if USC's bone-crusher barrels into Pryor at a key moment and Tennessee's star picks off Tebow a couple of times, they would need to continue that momentum all season and, most likely, their teams would need to be BCS contenders.
I'm convinced that if Cal got more consistent QB production the last couple of years, it would have put the Bears into a few Rose Bowl conversations. Has "QB Guru" Jeff Tedford lost his touch?
Good question. It does seem like Cal's program took a strange turn in the middle of the 2007 season when an injured Nate Longshore inexplicably lost his mojo. Longshore, you may recall, led the Bears to a 10-win season as a sophomore in '06 and had Cal off to a 5-0 start and No. 2 ranking in '07 before spraining his ankle. Though he missed just one game, he was clearly compromised the rest of the year, throwing 11 interceptions against nine touchdowns as the Bears lost six of their last eight. Neither he nor Kevin Riley wowed too many people last year.
Let's look at some numbers.
As you can see, Cal had its worst passing season under Tedford last season yet still managed to win nine games, thanks in large part to star RB Jahvid Best's emergence. (Throw in J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, and it would appear Tedford has become more of a "running back guru.") If he'd had Boller or Rodgers last year, maybe Cal could have challenged USC in the Pac-10.
Heading into '09, Cal is widely viewed as a top 20 team and Best as a Heisman candidate. The defense should be solid. Perhaps with no QB controversy for the first time in three years, Riley will step up and perform like an old Tedford signal-caller. If not ... Las Vegas is a great destination in December.
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