Clark, Pryor share spotlight in Happy Valley

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Daryll Clark should have been Big Ten preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Instead, the honor went to Terrelle Pryor.

Clark's masterful October should be the talk of the Big Ten right now. Instead, Pryor's struggles at Ohio State have dominated the discussion.

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno recently started to stump for Clark, saying the senior quarterback deserves more national recognition, perhaps even Heisman Trophy consideration. If Pryor boasted the same numbers as Clark, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel wouldn't need to say a word.

When it comes to hype and popularity, Pryor will always be No. 1 in this league. When it comes to production and leadership, Clark's the guy.

“He was a five-star recruit, a big-time guy coming out of high school, able to make plays with both his arm and his legs," Clark told ESPN.com this week. "So it’s a juicy story. He's going to receive a lot of media attention."

The attention has reached a fever pitch as Pryor returns to Happy Valley with No. 16 Ohio State to face No. 11 Penn State on Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). The Jeannette, Pa., product considered both Ohio State and Penn State during the recruiting process but opted to cross state lines and become a Buckeye.

Pryor's decision didn't sit well with Penn State fans, especially when he said he didn't like the State College area, calling it "too country." Nittany Nation is ready for his return, and Penn State students even made a T-shirt depicting "The Terrelle Cryer Story," which mocks Pryor's anguish following last year's loss to the Lions at Ohio Stadium.

"I'd like to get a few [T-shirts] before the game," Pryor told reporters Wednesday. "I'd like to wear one in warm-ups. I guess they're trying to get in my head. ... I can't let anything get to me."

There's still some ill will toward Pryor in Happy Valley, but things seem to have worked out for both quarterbacks.

Pryor ascended to the starting job in just his fourth collegiate game and helped Ohio State reach the Fiesta Bowl last season. Clark led Penn State to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance last year and boasts a 19-3 record as the starter.

Though Clark was far less decorated than Pryor coming out of Youngstown, Ohio, his performance on the field has won over Penn State fans, who often tell him they're glad he's their guy.

"I do get that a lot, and it definitely means a lot," Clark said. "When Ohio State lost to Purdue and Pryor was under a lot of scrutiny, everyone was talking bad about him not being a quarterback, I would hear from home that Ohio State should have recruited me. That’s just the way it is. The quarterback is a tough position. You go through a lot of ups and downs."

Clark beat out another highly recruited quarterback, Pat Devlin, for the starting job last summer and thinks nothing would have changed had Pryor come to Penn State.

"He would have obviously come in and competed for the job, along with everyone else," Clark said. "The job would have been up in the air, but I definitely feel very confident that I would still become the starter and the season would have happened the way it happened. I don't know how they would use him, if they would use a Wildcat offense or whatnot, or maybe flank him out at receiver like you saw in the Fiesta Bowl last year."

Pryor is still trying to prove he can be a complete quarterback at the college level. He has rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries (7.8 yards per carry) in his last two games but ranks last among Big Ten starters in completion percentage (54.6).

Clark, meanwhile, leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency (149.3) and ranks sixth nationally in touchdown passes (18), having thrown only one interception in his last five games.

"Experience is everything," Tressel said. "This week we're facing Daryll Clark, and I think this is his sixth year out of high school. He's had a bunch of snaps. You can see he's in command of the football game. You can't flip a switch to get to that level.

"In Daryll's Year 2, he probably wasn't there, and I think Terrelle's a little bit ahead of the curve."