Ohio State protects Terrelle Pryor off the field, too.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State protects Terrelle Pryor off the field, too.
The sophomore quarterback was not allowed to speak with reporters Monday during the Buckeyes' media day for their upcoming Rose Bowl appearance.
It follows a trend set by coach Jim Tressel, who likes to shield his underclassmen from the media as much as possible.
Asked how Pryor was handling the impending New Year's Day game with Oregon, Tressel said: "I sense he wants to leave on a higher note, just like our team does. ... The reality that sophomores have is they look at this game as kind of like the midpoint of their career. Even though everyone's been talking about them as a young guy, now they're on the downhill side of their career."
Even though Ohio State has finished fall quarter and no classes were scheduled, Pryor was not among the nine players who talked about the bowl game Monday.
Before Pryor's biggest five games as a starter, he has been off limits to reporters. That includes this year's showdown with Southern California, two games with rival Michigan and the Buckeyes' two bowl games — last season before the Fiesta Bowl against Texas and leading up to this Rose Bowl.
Tressel answered several questions Monday about Pryor's progress, health and preparation. The only reference he made to Pryor not speaking with reporters was a brief aside about those who complained to athletic director Gene Smith about Pryor's absence.
"I'll get you guys back," he joked.
At the Fiesta Bowl media day, Ohio State made 30 players available — but Pryor was not one of them.
That did not go over well with bowl organizers, trying to drum up interest in the game.
Pryor does come out to meet the media for a few minutes after games, and has met with reporters during the week leading up to several games this season.
But Pryor is the only player whose postgame interview is overseen by an Ohio State staffer and also is the only one limited by time.
Pryor seemed to enjoy his impromptu news conferences following about half of Wednesday practices this season. He was affable, inquiring and introspective for a 20-year-old.
This is not the first time that Tressel has been protective of a quarterback. He kept former Buckeyes star Troy Smith — who would win the Heisman Trophy a year later — away from reporters for several weeks midway through his junior season in 2005. Pryor says Smith is one of the people he contacts for advice these days.
Whether such kid-gloves handling of Pryor helps or hurts his play on the field is open to debate.
His numbers running (59 yards a game) and passing (56 percent completion rate) are comparable to what he did a year ago. The Buckeyes lost twice during his freshman year when he was the full-time quarterback and have lost twice this year. They come into their first Rose Bowl in 13 years riding a five-game winning streak, during which Pryor's role has been minimized with Tressel, who calls the plays on offense, focusing on tailbacks Dan Herron and Brandon Saine.
Tressel may not let Pryor speak to reporters very often because of the fallout from earlier this season when he wore a tribute to Michael Vick on his eyeblack during the season opener against Navy.
Vick, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, spent 18 months in a federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring.
Asked about wearing a "Vick" patch under his eye, Pryor said after the game, "Not everybody is the perfect person in the world. Everyone does — kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me. I just feel that people need to give (Vick) a chance."
When Tressel was asked about the controversy, he went over the top in defending his 6-foot-6, 235-pound player.
"I guess you'd have to know Terrelle like I know Terrelle," Tressel said. "There's probably not a more compassionate human being in the world than Terrelle."
On Monday, Tressel said Pryor is not satisfied with how he played this season.
"He is an extreme perfectionist, and so the only way he would have been happy at the end of the regular season was if we were 12-0, (he) completed every pass and he scored 94 touchdowns and threw for another 100. That's just him," Tressel said. "His ability to adapt and study and learn what we need to do better has grown, so he's not going to beat himself up. He has the ability to look and say, 'OK, here's what I need to do better.' I'm sure he feels like he's had some progress, but not near as much as he would like to have at this point."