Paterno doesn harbor ill feelings towards Pryor

Published 1:15 am Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The loser in the Terrelle Pryor recruiting sweepstakes gets his first up-close look at Ohio State’s freshman phenom.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno doesn’t have any regrets or hold any grudges.

‘‘No, no. Everybody’s got to do what they got to do. You’re dealing with a kid who’s got to make a life for himself,’’ Paterno said Tuesday outside Beaver Stadium. ‘‘You’re dealing with people’s lives.

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‘‘It’s working out for him fine. I hope we beat him, but you know how that goes,’’ Paterno said.

As if Saturday’s game at the Horseshoe between the unbeaten No. 3 Nittany Lions (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) and the No. 10 Buckeyes (7-1, 4-0) needed another storyline.

A year ago, the 6-foot-6 Pryor was THE hot high school recruit, a freakish blend of size, speed and strength who made college coaches drool. The native of the Pittsburgh suburb of Jeannette was the only player in Pennsylvania high school history to rush for more than 4,000 yards and throw for more than 4,000 in a career.

Pryor’s reputation was burnished by his western Pennsylvania pedigree, hailing from a region nicknamed the ‘‘Cradle of Quarterbacks’’ for producing the likes of Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas, among others.l

Suitors lined up outside the front door of his high school. Rich Rodriguez had called, first at West Virginia, then from Michigan. Oregon was one of the finalists.

Adding to the drama was his last-minute and unusual decision to delay committing on national signing day, on Feb. 6, after his father wanted him to take more time to consider Happy Valley.

Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and quarterback coach Jay Paterno put on a full-court press, crossing paths with Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and his staff.

Joe Paterno was mistaken if he thought Pryor was locked up to Ohio State as a junior in high school, Tressel said.

‘‘I guess we tricked him, because I’m not sure that was true,’’ Tressel said Tuesday.

During his deliberations, Pryor continued to give signs — unintentional or not — that he was leaning toward Ohio State.

Tressel said his confidence never wavered, though he did not take Pryor’s signing for granted.

‘‘So for me to sit back and make the assumption that, well, I’m confident because this is the best place for him, that’s a little shortsighted, but I felt that he felt that way and if he continued to feel that way it would go our way,’’ Tressel said this week.

On March 15, Pryor had the opportunity to put a storybook ending on his recruiting when he won a state high school basketball championship at the Bryce Jordan Center, on Penn State’s campus.

Instead, clutching the trophy in his hand, Pryor didn’t sound too thrilled with the State College area, though he called Penn State a good school with good coaches.

Four days later, he signed with Ohio State.

‘‘He’s going to be a great player. Good kid with a lot of poise. Handles pressure, knows what’s going on,’’ Paterno said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. ‘‘He’ll be one of the really good quarterbacks we’ve had coming out of this state.’’

Pryor is off to an encouraging start for a freshman quarterback leading a team with BCS aspirations, though there have been struggles.

He has shown a propensity to take a lot of negative plays, which made the performance last week against Michigan State promising. Pryor went 7-of-11 passing for 116 yards and one touchdown, and ran for 72 yards and an 18-yard score.

Pryor isn’t made available to speak with reporters at midweek, though he does talk to the media briefly after games.

‘‘We’re hungry for more. We want more,’’ Pryor said after the Michigan State win. ‘‘We got a big fight next week.’’

Tailback Chris ‘‘Beanie’’ Wells called Pryor a ‘‘carefree-type of guy’’ who is growing into a leader. ‘‘He’s become more calm and poised out there on the football field. You can just tell.’’

Apparently, Bradley is still close enough with the quarterback to get a text message from him now and then, including a recent one offering to show the veteran assistant around Columbus.

‘‘I asked him if he had the wrong number,’’ joked Bradley, who said he had no problems with how Pryor’s recruiting went down.

There’s little time for small talk, though, since Bradley will have to put together a scheme to shut down Pryor and the increasingly confident Ohio State offense.

Things have turned out pretty well, too, for Penn State, firmly in the national championship hunt.

The Spread HD offense is scoring 45 points a game with first-year starter Daryll Clark playing brilliantly under center.

‘‘To tell you the truth we have our own great quarterbacks,’’ Nittany Lions cornerback Tony Davis said. ‘‘(Pryor) chose to go to Ohio State.’’