At first glance, Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller have a lot in common.
Both were five-star dual threat quarterback recruits that committed to play their college football at Ohio State. Both were expected to come in and learn from experienced senior quarterbacks -- Pryor had Todd Boeckman and Braxton... well Braxton was supposed to have Pryor but instead got Joey Bauserbombs -- before taking over full time in their second year. Both had that plan change for good after the third game of their freshman season, when non-conference thrashings (USC in ‘08 and Miami in ‘11) forced them into the starting position to relieve their insultingly unathletic counterparts. They both played admirably -- occasionally interrupting child proofed playbooks with unmatchable athleticism.
They both beat Wisconsin in dramatic fashion, threw just four interceptions, but lost their first bowl game.
Unfortunately, it's difficult (if not impossible) to draw a completely fair handed comparison between the two disparate players. The circumstances between Pryor and Miller were so overwhelmingly different that finding any common ground to equally measure their stats -- and the impact on their teams -- is all but impossible.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. It’s the offseason, and the offseason has a way of making you do stupid things, say, like watching a Northwestern - Minnesota replay on the Big Ten Network with equal amounts of shame and emptiness.
So with a glass raised to the offseason, let’s dive in.
Statistically speaking, Pryor and Miller had very similar numbers their freshman seasons:
When you combine their passing and rushing totals, Pryor edged Miller by a mere 68 total yards. Miller got the ball in the end zone 20 times compared to Pryor’s 19 (Pryor also had a receiving touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas), but Pryor was more efficient with the ball, both in completion percentage and yards per attempt.
While their numbers look relatively identical, there are observations to be made that you can’t glean from hard numbers alone.
Statistics will inevitably be affected when the talent around one quarterback is significantly less capable than the person you’re comparing him to. Pryor played on a team with guys like "Beanie" Wells, Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline, Jake Ballard, Brandon Saine and DeVier Posey. Nothing against last year’s group of skill position players, but I’d take Beanie and Co. over what was fielded with Miller every day.
*Note -- Miller also had no problem "throwing the ball away" when a play broke down. This is significant because it obviously decreases his completion percentage, but when you’re comparing him to a guy in Pryor who would scramble from the pocket and take a five yard loss running out of bounds instead of throwing the ball away -- it skews the numbers a bit. If Miller had pulled a Pryor just 10 times last year, his completion percentage would be an identical 61%.
Both players joined teams facing varying levels of heat from the media. Pryor walked on to a team in ‘08 that was supposed to win a national championship -- and the worst media scrutiny his team faced amounted to the mindless HURR DURR SEC SPEED! hoopla that most players and coaches largely ignore anyway. In comparison, Miller had to deal with the fire-gnation of Jim Tressel, tattoo/golf/loaner-car/autographs-gate, an ongoing NCAA investigation, all while being left to the dark and twisted imagination of Jim Bollman.
It’s fair to say that both quarterbacks produced relatively level statistics, but you also have to admit that Miller produced his numbers with far less talent while facing much more heat from outside the program.
Do you agree? Or would you point to Ohio State’s Big Ten Championship in 2008 as your only needed proof that Pryor had the more impressive freshman season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section and wait patiently for me to argue with you.