An interesting side note of this weekends USC/Ohio St. game are the comparisons drawn between USC Quarterback Matt Barkley and Ohio St.'s Terrelle Pryor and their roles as true freshman on the their respective teams. Both are extremely talented, both were the top-ranked quarterbacks in each of the last two recruiting classes, and both were asked to take a leadership roll as freshman.
Their games are different but their drive is not....And that they were both called upon as freshmen to lead their teams is where the comparison stops.
Barkley was always destined to be a Trojan. His dad went to USC and he groomed him to be a quarterback under the tutelage of QB guru Steve Clarkson. Where Pryor, who was a two sport star in Pennsylvania, took his time looking at Michigan, Oregon and Ohio State before making his decision to go to Columbus.
Their paths to the starting job were different as well.
But the preparation Barkley had for this moment is nothing like what Pryor had a year ago, when Pryor split reps against USC and made his first start as a freshman the next week against Troy.
Barkley took part in USC's spring football practices this year. Last year, Pryor was not at Ohio State for spring ball. Barkley, after an injury to Aaron Corp, took most of the first-team snaps during the preseason. Last year, Pryor was splitting the backup snaps with Joe Bauserman, behind Todd Boeckman, during the preseason. And Barkley, coming from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., was tutored at a quarterback factory that almost simulates a college system and was ranked by Sports Illustrated in 2008 as having the No. 2 high school athletic program in the country.
Pryor, playing in Jeannette, Pa., for a school in the second-smallest state football classification, proved to be dominant in a program whose weight room was in the quarterback coach's garage.
Jeannette quarterbacks coach Roy Hall admits his coaching could take Pryor only so far. Barkley came shrinkwrapped and labeled "Ready to Play."
Regardless of the pressure on both of these kids, Barkley and Pryor deal with it like it is just another day in the week.
There have been comparisons of Barkley with Joe Montana and Pryor with Vince Young yet we won't really know if those comparisons will fit for quite some time. Barkley may be the better pure QB but Pryor is probably the better overall athlete.
But the expectations were also different...
Barkley is latest in a long line of quarterbacks at USC that will lead a roster filled with a lot of four and five star talent. Barkley is not the only weapon on the team and the offensive line he has in front of him along with the stable of backs and top flight receivers gives Barkley a lot of options. Regardless of how Barkley got the starting job the job is his to lose. Sure if he stumbles too far Aaron Corp is ready to step in and take the helm after-all the starting job was his until he went down with an injury so it is not like USC will be taking a step down if they have mae a switch.
Pryor's situation was little bit different...He shared snaps with Todd Boeckman until the third game of the season when Pryor was named the starter outright after Ohio St.'s blowout loss to USC last year at the Coliseum. Pryor had some rough outings getting a little bit better with each minute of experience he saw on the field but his newness as a freshman was tested and exposed against Penn St. when the ball was swatted away from his grasp as OSU was driving down for a possible go ahead score. Pryor admitted that he was trying to do too much and that it was tremendous learning experience for him.
Both will make their impact felt but in different ways. Barkley has a better overall supporting cast that will help that the pressure off while Pryor is pretty much expected by many to be the game changer in a pretty much unknown cast of players outside of Columbus or the Big 10.
This year the roles are reversed with Barkley now the rookie and Pryor now the seasoned veteran. The venues will also play a role in how each QB performs. Noise will be Barkley's biggest issue to deal with, yes there is his level of experience...You know the Ohio St. defense will throw the kitchen sink at him early and often to try and rattle him. Pryor's biggest issue will be trying to do too much on his own. Ohio St. has fairly new offensive line and with USC's speedy defense if Pryor is forced from the pocket it will all be improvisation from that point on. Catching Pryor out in the open will be USC's biggest task...that is where he could turn into Vince Young.
It will be an interesting display of abilities on Saturday. This is another one of those "game of the century" that we see each week.
It is hard for me to call this one...