YOUNGSTOWN - No one knows exactly how Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor will be utilized in Saturday's game against Youngstown State.
He may come in during the first series, he might not play at all in the first half or maybe he'll lead the offense for the final two quarters. It's a mystery, but one thing is for certain: The No. 1 recruited quarterback in the nation will participate in Saturday's season opener.
Coach Jim Tressel let that be known Tuesday during his weekly press conference, saying: ''Perfect scenario for me would be to have all three (quarterbacks) get in the game in that first half.''
Whether Tressel was simply trying to initiate some extra thoughts for Youngstown State coach Jon Heacock to ponder or Pryor, tabbed as the No. 3 quarterback on OSU's depth chart, will actually play in the first half is unknown. Heacock is doing his best not to think about it. He said he hasn't set aside much practice time toward preparing for Pryor, mainly because Todd Boeckman is the unquestioned starter for the Buckeyes, and he torched the Penguins for 225 yards and two touchdowns last year.
''As a coach you cannot chase ghosts in preparation for a football game,'' Heacock said. ''You have to take the things that they do, and you have to prepare for them, and then, in your own mind, you have to have some plans for what might happen.''
If Pryor does play, Heacock said he anticipates the Buckeyes likely changing their offensive approach to more of a spread-out look. That would force the Penguins to become aware of Pryor's blazing speed. While Heacock's certainly not looking forward to seeing Pryor line up under center, he said the Penguins should be ready.
''A blessing for us is that if they try and spread the game out a little bit, our guys have seen it every day, so we'll have some handle on that,'' said Heacock, whose team switched to a spread look this year. ''You have a plan in the back of your mind, but you can't go out and say, 'Boy, if he comes in, we're going to do all these things' because he may never come in. Or he may be in the first series and you didn't plan on facing him at all.''
It's quite the predicament for Heacock and the rest of YSU. The Penguins have enough to deal with as it is. Ohio State running back Chris ''Beanie'' Wells is upset because of last year's performance against Youngstown State (16 carries, 46 yards), and it's never good to have a Heisman Trophy candidate mad. Then there's the fact that wide receiver Brian Robiskie lit up the Penguins for 153 yards and a touchdown on nine catches. And don't think Heacock forgot that YSU's offense only accumulated 91 total yards.
That's why Pryor is just one of the many concerns.
''We have to be careful not to chase ghosts,'' Heacock reiterated. ''It's hard to get a beat on them because they have so much talent. You're not going to be able to say, 'Hey, this is what they're doing.' They're too good and they have too good of coaches for that.''
The Penguins are backing down from the challenges, especially that of Pryor. Senior corner Jarvis Richards said Pryor has yet to prove his worth at the collegiate level, and he doesn't plan on allowing the 6-foot-6, 235-pound quarterback to have his coming out party at noon on Saturday.
''It's definitely exciting being a player on defense and going against that type of player,'' Richards said. ''As far as I know he was no more than a high school athlete. As a cornerback, I'm looking forward to playing against him. I love competition - I'm a competitor. The whole defense is full of competitors.''
He and the rest of the Penguins will soon find out just how competitive they are against one of the best teams in the country.