Isaiah Pryor could be Ohio State football’s breakout defensive star
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Who is your Wild Card to be a megastar for the Buckeyes this year? A player not getting a ton of attention that could be one of the biggest contributors on the roster.
— Jared Duncan (@buckeyefan686) March 14, 2018
This is such a good question that I’m going to break it up over two days and give a choice for both offense and defense. I’ll look at the defensive side of the ball first, but let’s start with a caveat. I’m not sure there’s a single Malik Hooker-type situation on this roster because having a player go from special teams to All-American in one year is pretty rare. Also, the pool of candidates for this type of question seems to get smaller every year as the recruits get better and the spotlight grows even bigger.
My mind immediately jumped to defensive back Isaiah Pryor after reading this question. He didn’t get a ton of attention or playing time in his first year in Columbus, but I absolutely believe he’s a star in the making. During the recruiting process, his coaches at both Lawrenceville (Ga.) Archer and Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy raved about his maturity, work ethic and athleticism.
“I don’t think there’s anything average about Isaiah physically,” IMG coach Kevin Wright said during Pryor’s senior season. “He’s got a grown man’s body right now. I think he’ll continue to get thicker as he gets older. A lot of that comes from hard work. He’s always getting extra reps. On Saturday night, he’ll be out on the track doing ladder drills and working on his footwork. From a physical standpoint, he ranks up there with anyone in the country.”
Emerging as a superstar requires both talent and opportunity, and Pryor has both. He was the second member of the Class of 2017 to lose his black stripe, and his play progressed throughout his freshman season. By the end of the year, defensive coordinator and safeties coach Greg Schiano was raving about his improvement.
“Isaiah has really taken strides,” Schiano said during Cotton Bowl interviews. “It’s neat, we get to see them the whole time. We’ve had however many bowl practices, 15 or whatever it is, it’s almost like another spring practice.
“I think two guys in the secondary who have played some for us but got a lot of defensive secondary reps are [cornerback] Jeffrey Okudah and Isaiah Pryor. I think those guys have really performed well. They’ve taken advantage of all these reps.”
Pryor will get a chance to start as a sophomore thanks to the departures of starter Damon Webb and experienced backup Erick Smith. Safety is one of the thinner positions on the team in terms of depth, so there isn’t a ton of competition. That means more reps and more development for a second-year player looking to crack the starting lineup.
“I’ve doing a lot of extra studying, been working hard on all my skill sets and stuff like that, leading everybody, trying to make everybody be the best they can be, whether that be scout team with just giving a good look and stuff like that,” Pryor said in December. “For me personally, a lot of this year was about the mental side of it as far as situations on the field ― that part of the game, not so much the physical stuff. Coach Schiano has helped me a lot honing my skills, and I’m excited for next year.
“We’re going to see who gets that spot. But I’m going to give my all, play my hardest and try to go out there and start.”
The guess here is that Pryor wins the job. And given his work ethic and the big-play potential of the safety position, he should be a household name by the time the 2018 Ohio State season has come to an end.
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