Gruden Impressed with Buckeye Quarterbacks
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jon Gruden knew all about Ohio State football before he ever stepped off the plane Wednesday.
A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Gruden played at both Muskingum College and the University of Dayton before going on to success as a head football coach in the NFL. Today he serves as a football analyst for ESPN and a color commentator on Monday Night Football, but it always feels good to come home.
“I really love it. I grew up in Ohio. My mom’s from Ohio. My dad’s from Ohio. My brother just signed up with the Cincinnati Bengals, so I get excited about coming back to Ohio State,” Gruden said Friday after serving as the keynote speaker for the 80th annual Ohio State Football Clinic.
“Woody Hayes is a big reason I got into coaching. He was my idol as a kid.”
Gruden’s dad Jim was also in attendance at the Schottenstein Center Friday, where his son spoke to high school football coaches from around the state. The elder Gruden coached at Indiana University from 1973-77 while Hayes was coaching guys like John Hicks and Archie Griffin in Columbus.
“We used to get our heads stomped on by Woody Hayes, but I love the fight song and I'm proud to be a Buckeye,” Gruden said.
The former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not have to be in Columbus until Friday for the coaches’ clinic, but flew in few days early to spend some time with Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes as they wrap up spring practice.
“I’ve been here since Wednesday, I’m kind of glad to be leaving. They wore me out,” Gruden said with a chuckle.
“I’ve been over at the facility from five o’clock in the morning 11 o’clock at night, Nic (Siciliano), the quarterback coach and myself.”
Gruden cut his teeth in the NFL under Mike Holmgren and is considered to be somewhat of an offensive guru. He has recently been analyzing top college quarterbacks for the ESPN special “Gruden’s QB Camp.” Friday he pointed his microscope at Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
“I met Terrelle Pryor and got a chance to watch him. I know he’s injured right now and he’s going through a lot, but this is a freak of nature,” Gruden said.
“This guy is really something with the ball in his hands. You can run the read-option, you can put in a pro style passing attack with this kid. I think he’s going to go through a lot. He’s going to miss football. It’s important he handles his idle time, but I like him a lot.”
NFL draft analyst Mile Kiper Jr., a colleague of Gruden’s at ESPN, recently said he projected Pryor as a tight end at the next level. He said he didn’t see enough in Pryor’s game to make him think he could play quarterback at the pro level, but Gruden has a more optimistic outlook.
“Yeah I do, I really do. I’m accused of liking too many people. ‘Gruden likes everybody.’ Well, I’m sorry about that,” Gruden said.
“Bill Walsh used to say ‘don’t tell me what this guy can’t do, tell me what he can do.’ I’ll tell you, Terrelle Pryor can run and he can throw, and he’s a hell of a competitor.”
Gruden did not get to see Pryor in action this week because the senior is still recovering from off-season foot surgery. That did, however, give him the opportunity to get a look at Ohio State’s four other quarterbacks, including freshman Braxton Miller.
“They’ve got a hotshot guy in here from Dayton, number five is all I know. Braxton is his name,” Gruden said.
“He’s pretty darn good too. They’ve got a lot of guys in the stable as well.”
Senior Joe Bauserman, sophomore Kenny Guiton and freshman Taylor Graham are all competing with Miller to be the starting quarterback while Pryor is suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season.
Gruden seems to think Miller has legitimate chance of winning the job away from his more veteran teammates if the coaches give him a chance to catch up.
“You just met Braxton. He just got here. He’s really still a high school player. All of a sudden he’s potentially going to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes early in the season,” he said.
“We’ve got to slowly implement our offense with him and teach him and let him gain some confidence along the way.”
At least that’s the way Gruden would handle it.
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