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Monday, February 11, 2008

This? A thousand-year-old man from Madison declares that Pryor is down to Ohio State and Penn State:

The nation's number one recruit, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, has removed Michigan and Oregon from his short list. That leaves only Ohio State and Penn State.
This causes fretting.

I don't buy it. First of all, this guy's named "Fritz." You can never trust guys named Fritz. Second of all, there are a thousand people who are trying to get in contact with Pryor and only a few of them have been around for any length of time. If anyone was going to get a scoop like this it would be one of the guys from the major recruiting sites, probably Bob Lichtenfels. Lichtenfels was the guy who got to break the Rich Rodriguez story because Pryor called him, and over the past week or so he's been the voice in the wilderness claiming that Penn State had a much better shot at this than anyone realized.

This guy is named "Fritz," is from Madison, does not quote Pryor, and makes silly Tiller-esque assertions about how Rodriguez has "offended the whole conference" and is now in deep trouble.
We're coming after you Rodriguez! We didn't really care about the outcome of our sporting contests against you, but then you picked off recruits in the exact same fashion we all do. Now we're going to try to win! See how you like that!
Credence level: low. Yeah, it's in a newspaper. So is Drew Sharp.

Bear with me. I've got a weird feeling. I know there are a ton of data points out there from Pryor's coaches to his friends to his dad pointing places other than Michigan. You've read these in newspaper and on website from sea to shining sea. The expectation is and has been for months that Pryor will pick Ohio State, and I basically believe the conventional wisdom.

But... but... but. This blog has noted a few rumblings in Michigan's favor:
  • A report from College Football talk that M feels it has Pryor in the bag.
  • That Buckeye fan who sat next to Jerome Bettis and reports that Bettis said Batch told him Pryor was headed to Michigan. (That guy, by the way, posted a picture of himself (or someone, at least) with Bettis in what's clearly Detroit Metro.)
  • A Western Pennsylvania report that Pryor's actually going to M that was emailed to me.
There is a fourth item, though this one has a lot of internet super-sleuthing to it: in my perusals of various Penn State and Ohio State message boards looking for any semblance of information about the Pryor recruitment I stumbled across a guy who claimed to be the classmate of another dual-threat four star quarterback. He duly informed a group of opposing fans that this quarterback had been told by Pryor himself that he was going to Michigan. Some digging revealed that this guy had 100 or so posts on the message board, most of them generically positive posts about Penn State. The exception: a note sometime in January about Star Jackson, a four star dual threat quarterback who signed with Alabama, visiting Michigan the same weekend Pryor did. Jackson never took that trip, and since this guy's Pryor-to-M post claimed a mutual official visit was how the two knew each other his story doesn't entirely check out.

HOWEVA, both Pryor and Jackson were in San Antonio for the Army All-American game. So maybe this guy, who I believe is really the high school classmate of Jackson and a Penn State fan, just misremembered his details or got it wrong without screwing up the heart of the issue -- OMG PRYOR M. I'm really paranoid about hoaxes, but this seemed on the up-and-up. Why would this guy post Star Jackson news with only tangential relevance to Penn State on a PSU message board, and how many people would remember the exact content of their claimed insider info a month later when they put up their scammy post on a premium Penn State message board? And in-between could they put up a dozen convincingly innocuous posts from the perspective of a Penn State fan? These things all seem unlikely, so I add it to the pile.

We now have a decent-sized pile, do we not? And with that pile and the idea that maybe Ohio State is not Terrelle's first choice does this statement from the Terrelle-father seem different?
Craig Pryor also told his son that playing immediately might not be the best way to make progress. He said it wouldn't hurt if he sat back and watched while he tries to learn to read defenses.

"He's not worried about playing right away," Craig Pryor said. "It will give him time to learn and adjust to the speed of the game."
The quote says something on Terrelle's behalf that makes it seem like we're out, but the paragraph before it implies that when the two Pryors were having their disagreement the elder was specifically combating the idea that he should play immediately. This interpretation of the passage means we're in, so in, and Pryor's dad is arguing against Michigan, not Ohio State.

Much has been made of Pryor's desire to stay relatively near Jeannette because his father is wheelchair-bound (why this would make a couple extra hours in the car more unbearable than it would be for someone with full use of his legs is unclear), and the father's objection appears to be the holdup here, right? Columbus and State College are almost the same distance away from Jeannette -- State College might be 30 minutes to an hour closer. It's Ann Arbor that's the relative outlier.

And then there's Charlie Batch, beloved ex-Lions quarterback, fellow Washtenaw-county-ite, and gentleman of distinction:
Asked if his regular presence causes some discomfort among those vying for Pryor's attention, Batch said, "I'm welcomed in some situations. In some situations, I'm not. And those situations that I'm not, that's why I'm here."
Again, one could read this as Batch repeatedly saying "no funny stuff" and perpetrators of funny stuff being put off. Pryor brought Batch in around November, after his Ohio State official visit, and he has not been to Ohio State. According to the OSU Scout site, a "friend"($) accompanied him. Pryor's coach on friends:
"Terrelle is the person that must make the decision, no one else" Batch said. "He's the person who has to be happy where he'll spend the next three or four years. His friends have to realize that."
Batch is the pointman on the Pryor recruitment and he hasn't been to Columbus. Has he even met Tressel? I find it difficult to believe Pryor has to import Batch to be the bringer of sanity and said bringer would sign off on a place he hadn't been.

I've been trying to let go of this wild hope that maybe we'll get the guy, and am fully cognizant of my inherent bias towards the belief that Michigan's still in play. But I can't. What it comes back to is motivation and bias. The Ohio State insiders who have been proclaiming Pryor an Ohio State lock forever are locked into that belief until it's forcibly shaken from them. These random guys on message boards, if you believe their third-hand stories, are breaking bad news to their respective fanbases, and in some sense are more reliable.

Do I actually think Pryor will pick Michigan? Not really. Lord knows the internet led me astray during the Michigan coaching search. There's also considerable pessimism from what's left of the Michigan insider community.

But... I just have a weird feeling, is all. I've displayed my cards; judge for yourself.

And you only delay your doom. Whiffing on Pryor would be unfortunate, but not devastating. Michigan will lure an OMG shirtless dual-threat quarterback next year.

Russell Shepard is the next next Vince Young, but was presumed a Texas lock. Texas, however, has already taken a commitment from five star quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Shepard in the aftermath of his junior-day visit to Texas:
Shepard said the situation at Texas opens up his recruitment for other suitors.

“I would say Texas is still up there, but Michigan is really at the top of my list, especially if they don’t get (2008 top recruit) Terrelle Pryor,” he said. “I feel like I could go there and play right away. I’m also looking at Florida and LSU. Both of those schools have pretty good depth-chart situations for me.”

The "situation" at Texas: two more years of Colt (albeit only one of relevance to Shepard), then a morass of highly-rated quarterbacks including five-star dual-threat John Chiles and five-star pocket passer Garrett Gilbert, who committed a few days ago. The rest of that article has Shepard quotes about just wanting "a shot" at quarterback and being fine with moving as long as he gets that shot... whether Texas can realistically provide that with four QB candidates on the roster or committed is up in the air. It does sound like Shepard really wants to go to Texas, but...