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Ohio State, Michigan QBs give IU distinct defensive challenges


Ohio linebacker Jay Edwards (14) trips Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) near the goal line during the second half of their NCAA football game Sept. 18 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State won, 43-7. Buy Photos

The Hoosiers (3-1, 0-1) travel to Ohio Stadium on Saturday for a conference matchup with No. 2-ranked Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) and their agile, show-stopping quarterback junior Terrelle Pryor.

For Michigan, the quarterback who fit that mold was sophomore Denard Robinson. With a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week performance, Robinson gutted the Hoosier defense for 277 yards through the air and 217 on the ground for a total of
five touchdowns.

As for the Buckeyes, Pryor is guiding an offense ranked  No. 21 nationally, with 2,317 total yards. As a passer and rusher, Pryor has 1,388 of those yards.

The explosive statistical similarities, though, don’t forge a tight bond between how IU’s defense can defend each quarterback. The difference, the Hoosiers say, is both in how each quarterback is built physically and the offensive scheme they play a part in.

“He’s a different player,” IU senior safety Mitchell Evans said of Pryor compared to Robinson. “Their offense is different, and we’ll be playing against a whole other scheme. I think they’re both obviously good athletes and runners out there, but they’re a little bit different.”

Size, in fact, is a big difference.

Robinson is listed as a 6-foot, 193-pound quarterback while Pryor is a sizable 6-foot-6, 233-pound signal caller.

“He’s definitely a big guy,” Evans said. “I don’t think we’ve faced anybody of his size. At least I haven’t.”

Evans, of course, was on the opposite side of the field last season as a Wildcat quarterback and wide receiver when the Buckeyes beat IU 33-14 in Bloomington.

“Size makes the biggest difference. He’s a big man,” IU coach Bill Lynch said. “But he can really go. I don’t know how you compare the difference. To relate it to basketball, you’ve got that great, great point guard that you just can’t stop versus a big, overpowering guy that has the ball in his hands all of the time.”

Lynch said both are great players, but they are different.

Aside from the physical aspects, the two schools operate offenses that can be very different — helping to differentiate their quarterbacks further.

“Michigan is a true spread team that stretches you tremendously,” Lynch said. “That’s why you get caught vulnerable in one-on-one situations, and a missed tackle or a guy out of position creates big plays. It’s such a well-conceived offense.”

The Buckeyes feature an element of the spread in their playbook, but they are also not afraid to play traditional power football.

“They have great flexibility within the offense because of Pryor and his ability to run, his ability to scramble,” Lynch said.  “They have very good receivers, good backs. That’s probably the biggest difference. Rather than the individual, its the schemes are much different — although both are very, very effective.”

Evans also thinks Pryor’s approach to the game is different than Robinson’s.
“Pryor definitely has the ability to run like (Robinson), but he’s more of a thrower,” Evans said. “When you look at Denard, he can throw like that, but he throws a lot more screens and bubbles.”

There’s no discredit from Evans on either player’s ability. Both, after all, are featured on multiple lists as preseason Heisman Trophy candidates.

“As far as ability-wise, I think they’re both on the same level,” Evans said.
A knock against Pryor may be his turnovers.

Last season, Pryor was intercepted 11 times. The Buckeyes lost twice last season to USC and Purdue — games Pryor combined for five total turnovers.

The Ohio State quarterback has limited those turnovers this season, throwing just three total interceptions. He’s yet to fumble.

Evans, a deep anchor of the IU defense, would like to change those numbers Saturday.

“We’ve just got to play as a team,” Evans said. “If we can get a few people flying to the ball and creating turnovers and things like that, then I think we’ve got a chance.”

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