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December 17, 2007

Pryor would be real jackpot for Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It wasn't long into Rich Rodriguez's introductory news conference Monday as the new football coach at Michigan when he made one point abundantly clear.

He wasn't here to discuss bygone days in West Virginia or the circumstances behind his unexpected and sudden departure from the Mountaineers.

"I don't think there's any need to do that," Rodriguez, a native of Grant Town, W.Va. and former WVU player drawled before spinning into an anecdote.

"There's an old movie called The Lion King," he continued. "There's a scene in the movie where a monkey hits the lion over the head and the lion says, 'what did you do that for' and the monkey says, 'it doesn't matter it's in the past.'

"Doesn't matter it's in the past."

Given what lies ahead for the 44-year-old coach, who Michigan wanted so badly it agreed to pick up a $4 million buyout, how could you blame him for going ape?

He was just handed the keys to the winningest program in college football history. And, as Rivals.com reported Sunday, he's got a bead on bringing the top recruit in the nation – dual threat quarterback Terrelle Pryor – to the Big House to run his souped-up spread option offense and drive other coaches in the Big Ten and around the nation absolutely bananas.

Perhaps no one more than Ohio State's Jim Tressel.

Pryor is now reportedly considering the Buckeyes, Wolverines and Florida Gators as his college destination. The winner gets the 6-foot-6, 235-pound burner from Jeannette, Pa. and potentially a whole lot more. Pryor has built relationships with several of Ohio State's current commitments and could, in theory, change some of their paths from Columbus to Ann Arbor.

Somewhere Bo and Woody are about to start throwing blows.

Michigan would provide Pryor with all the ingredients he seeks to show his wares – a huge stadium filled with rabid fans and colossal national TV exposure in an offense that suits him to a "T."

With Rodriguez, the consummate tactician, pushing the buttons.

"Rich was born to be a football coach," said John Beilein, Michigan's basketball coach who also previously worked with Rodriguez at West Virginia. "He's a coach and he's a leader."

And apparently a pretty good recruiter.

If he can get Pryor, and the quarterback can persuade others to follow, Michigan could go from having a decent recruiting class (currently ranked 14th by Rivals.com) to the top 10 in the nation and the best in the Big Ten, a distinction that rests with Ohio State right now.

Rodriguez knows to make the spread go, he needs a player with Pryor's unique skill set and speed (4.4 in the 40-yard dash).

Perhaps that's why the coach wasted no time in announcing Monday that WVU offensive coordinator Calvin Magee and secondary coach/recruiting coordinator Tony Gibson will be joining him at Michigan.

These are the same guys who had impressed Pryor enough that he was previously considering going to Morgantown.

Meanwhile, Michigan returns quarterback Ryan Mallett, a pro-style passer who doesn't have the mobility to thrive in the spread option. Certainly the offense could be modified to work with Mallett, but not nearly with the effectiveness it would with Pryor.

And oh, what an efficient offense it has proven to be for Rodriguez in stops at Glenville State, Tulane with Shaun King, Clemson with Woody Dantzler and West Virginia with Pat White.

White and Co. piled up nearly 39 points per game this season in winning the Big East and earning a trip to the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. A stumble against Pitt in their finale cost the Mountaineers a shot at the national championship.

So while Michigan athletic director Bill Martin and fans breathed a sigh of relief in landing Rodriguez after failed attempts to lure LSU coach Les Miles and Rutgers' Greg Schiano, the real jackpot could come Feb. 6 on National Signing Day.

Pryor's signature on a letter of intent and the potential residual effect could ensure that the future at Michigan is all Rodriguez wants to talk about.

He got a head start on Monday.

"My son Rhett is 9 years old. He will be the most highly recruited quarterback in the class of 2017," Rodriguez joked as he has introduced his family, including wife Rita and daughter Raquel. "Rhett has already committed to the University of Michigan."

First, Rodriguez needs a Pryor commitment.

Gerry Ahern is a senior editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Gerry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

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