Top-ranked QB Pryor commits to Ohio State

Terrelle Pryor, the nation's top-ranked high school quarterback according to the ESPN 150 and the top unsigned senior, announced that he'll attend Ohio State at the news conference at his high school in Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

"When I called Coach Tress he welcomed me to the Ohio State family," said Pryor, who made his decision hours before the announcement.

His decision comes six weeks after the Feb. 6 national signing day when seniors normally sign their binding national letter and four days after the Jeannette Jayhawks made WPIAL history by winning the PIAA Class AA state boys' basketball championship. In December, the school won the state football title. No other Western Pennsylvania school has pulled off that unthinkable double.

Pryor was the central figure in both championship runs.

"The sky's the limit to athleticism," said Tom Luginbill, the national football recruiting coordinator for Scouts, Inc. "He draws comparisons to Vince Young, who can save a play on the run and has the ability to improvise."

The two-time Pennsylvania player of the year chose Ohio State over Oregon, Penn State and Michigan. But it really came down to blood rivals Ohio State and Michigan.

Pryor initially delayed his college decision because he did not devote adequate time to the recruiting process. After winning a football championship on Dec. 14, he jumped into basketball season. Charlie Batch, the Pittsburgh Steelers' backup quarterback, became an advisor. Batch, who has known Pryor since he was 12 years old, wants to "point out things he might not see" during the recruiting process.

During the news conference, Batch was texting Pryor from Hawaii.

"It's six hours earlier there (Hawaii), but he's cool with my decision and he'll be a part of the family soon and he'll work me out," Pryor said.

He asked for more time but failed to officially visit two of the four finalists because of the overlap of football and basketball.

Last weekend at the Class AA basketball final in State College, Pa., Pryor knew a decision was imminent. He said he would "sign [the national letter] and just get it over with."

He also eliminated two schools but failed to mention them.

One of the schools he tossed aside was Penn State, where he forged a solid relationship with defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. Ultimately, Happy Valley was no place for a city kid.

"I don't like that place," he said of Penn State's rural location. "It's the country but they were in it."

He discounted Oregon "because it's across the country. I have a father and (high school) coaches here who can drive three hours to see me play rather than watch it on TV."

As for Michigan, recently hired coach Rich Rodriguez put on full-press coverage to sway Pryor, and in the end was difficult to say no. "Coach Rod was still recruiting me this morning, saying all the things," Pryor said.

Pryor sought the advice of NFL personnel regarding Michigan's spread offense, the same one Rodriguez popularized at West Virginia. The feedback was positive that it would prepare him for the NFL, but it wasn't enough to change his mind.

Pryor's future coach, Tressel, fielded several questions on Feb. 6 about landing a quarterback before April 1. Though he never mentioned Pryor by name (NCAA rules forbid a coach from commenting on a recruit who hasn't signed with his school), Tressel remained optimistic, saving a scholarship after signing 19 players.

"I think we had planned on having a quarterback in this class and so, yeah, in a perfect, let's make a perfect world, let's get a quarterback in this class, and our plans would be further along," he said.

Consider it done.

The commitment also bolsters Ohio State's 2008 recruiting class, making it eight ESPN 150 prospects in the fold. The Buckeyes now leapfrog Southern California for the No. 6 recruiting class in ESPN's 2008 college football prospect rankings.

"The quarterback position was a real need for Ohio State," Luginbill said. "They were able to fulfill it late."

Ohio State signed three top-100 offensive linemen, No. 42 in the ESPN 150 Michael Brewster (Edgewater; Orlando, Fla.), No. 56 J.B. Shugarts (Klein; Spring, Texas) and No. 88 Mike Adams (Coffman; Dublin, Ohio), who will be Pryor's future protectors.

Pryor's signing doesn't necessarily mean he'll start at quarterback or become the "instant savior." That's because Todd Boeckman, a 6-5 senior from St. Henry, Ohio, returns. Boeckman guided the 11-2 Buckeyes to the BCS National Championship Bowl, throwing for 2,379 yards and 25 touchdowns, while completing nearly 64 percent of his passes.

"Terrelle will be in a great situation from the start," Luginbill said. "Ohio State has an accomplished quarterback and 20 starters back. Terrelle will be utilized like Tim Tebow at Florida as a freshman where he was brought into situations which didn't create failure; he'll have doses of the offense.

"He still needs to beat you on the college level with his arm. In high school, he did it with his legs, not necessarily by passing. He needs to become a quarterback as opposed to an athlete who is a quarterback."

With two PIAA state championship trophies residing at Jeannette High, thus ends one the great prep careers in state history.

Pryor, the No. 4-rated player in the ESPN 150, has left a legacy:

• In football, he became the first Pennsylvania player to pass and rush for more than 4,000 yards.

• In basketball, he concluded with a school-record 2,285 points, eighth all-time on the WPIAL career scoring charts.

• He helped the Jayhawks win back-to-back WPIAL football championships, advancing to the last two PIAA Class AA title games, triumphing this season.

• He scored 23 points and had eight rebounds in the PIAA Class AA final as the Jayhawks held off Strawberry Mansion of Philadelphia, 76-72, in overtime. The Jayhawks went 30-2 and won the WPIAL title.

• The football team went 30-2 over the last two seasons, including 16-0 this season.

• The basketball squad went 53-9 in his junior and senior seasons as Pryor, an all-state selection, topped the Jayhawks in most statistical categories.

Pryor, a rare 6-6, 230-pound physical specimen, will concentrate on football at Ohio State.

"Everyone says he's a can't-miss player," Jeannette coach Ray Reitz said. "Not too many 6-foot-6 athletes can run a sub 4.3 40[-yard dash]."

His football numbers this fall were eye-catching but might have been eye-popping if the Jayhawks weren't so dominant, registering lopsided scores.

Pryor ran for 1,901 yards and 33 touchdowns on 142 carries, averaging 13.4 yards. He completed 85 of 124 passes for 1,790 yards and 21 touchdowns and caught one TD pass.

He saved his best for last.

In the PIAA 2A final, he ran for 209 yards and three TDs, completed 3 of 4 passes for 83 yards and a TD and caught a 28-yard scoring strike in a 49-21 blowout of Dunmore.

Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA TODAY, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball and boys and girls basketball. He also for worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, where he ran the Gatorade national player of the year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y. and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.