Freshman Pittman Makes His Case

Early enrolling true freshman Tony Pittman came up big with 105 yards on 21 carries in Saturday's Scarlet and Gray Game. Click here for comments from Pittman and OSU head coach Jim Tressel on his first big day as a Buckeye.

Tony Pittman had been through 14 spring practice sessions, but he knew there was going to be something special about No. 15, yesterday's Scarlet and Gray Game before over 45,000 fans at Ohio Stadium and a statewide television audience.

"I woke up at 3:30 and I couldn't go back to sleep," said Pittman, a freshman tailback who graduated early from Akron Buchtel and enrolled at OSU this spring. "I came to the Woody about 8:30 in the morning and I was ready. I was sitting there with my jersey. I turned it around to see my name on it. I was happy.

"I was motivated. This was the first time I put on my jersey and I still haven't taken it off. I'm real motivated and energized to be a part of this."

Pittman displayed motivation and energy throughout the day. He carried 21 times for 105 yards and helped the Scarlet take a 13-0 win over the Gray in the team's spring-ending scrimmage. The 5-11, 198-pound Pittman was on the same team as senior tailback and incumbent starter Lydell Ross. But when Ross went to the bench after logging five first-quarter carries, it was Pittman‘s turn to shine.

"That was my goal when I came out today," Pittman said of the 100-yard game. "I just wanted to help my team win. Lydell didn't play that much. From the second quarter on, it was up to me and I just had to run.

"I didn't know he was only going to play one quarter and then leave the rest up to me. But it was a good learning experience for me. It was a chance for me to see if I could carry the ball and really run."

Pittman came to the forefront as a junior at Buchtel, when he rushed for 2,316 yards and 25 touchdowns for a 12-1 team that reached the Division III regional finals. He was offered by the Buckeyes and accepted last April. He then battled turf toe as a senior, but still managed 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Griffins.

He got his academics in order, graduated from Buchtel in January and readied himself for the rigors of college life.

"It's been a long, long ride," Pittman said. "The jump from high school to college. It's a big transition. The game is so much faster. There is so much you have to learn. You have to read defenses and pick up blitzes. It's been a long ride.

"The whole reason I jumped early from high school is you have to learn so much. Your playbook is 300 and some pages. In camp, you only get 10 days to learn that. But by being here in the spring, I had 15 days to learn that. Plus, I still have the whole summer and camp to learn some more."

Pittman looked like he belonged on Saturday. His longest run was 13 yards and he also caught a screen pass for a 25-yard gain, although the play was negated by a holding penalty.

"I'm feeling comfortable," he said. "If you're running scared, you'll get hurt. If I was scared, I wouldn't have come here. The line opened up some great holes. I just ran through them today."

Pittman collided with safety Donte Whitner a couple of times on running plays. But the play people were talking about came on the first play of the fourth quarter. Pittman went left for a simple 3-yard gain, but cornerback E.J. Underwood converged with a big hit and knocked his helmet off. Pittman considered that play as his baptism.

"The play I remember was when I got my helmet knocked off," he said. "That was the hit. That was the hit I was waiting on. I never felt that in high school. That's when you understand that these are grown men you're playing against. You've got to get ready."

Following the scrimmage, OSU head coach Jim Tressel praised Pittman for rising to the occasion.

"I thought Tony had a good spring," Tressel said. "He didn't have winter conditioning and, when he got here, he didn't know much about what we were doing. But he stepped in and he learned. He's a good football player. He can catch it and run it. The hardest thing for a young back to do is pick up the blitz protections. But I think we feel good about the way he played.

"I'll say this: Tony Pittman heads to the goal line."

Pittman enjoyed his day in the sun.

"It was just a great day," he said. "My line was opening holes for me. It just turned out good for our team."

It could be a crowded house at tailback this year with Ross returning. Plus, fullback Branden Joe figures to get reps as well from time to time. Senior Maurice Hall may also be in the mix if he can make it back from knee problems. Sophomore Ira Guilford missed the spring due to athletic department policies, believed to be an academic situation. And, Pittman will be joined by two freshman classmates, Erik Haw and Dennis Kennedy, in the fall.

"I haven't proved nothing yet," he said. "I just had a great day today. I'm going to continue to work harder until the season comes.

"I'm just showing everybody that, just because I may weigh 198 pounds and I'm not the biggest thing, I can still run. I'll run against anybody. I'm not scared. If you have heart, it will take you a long way."

Click here for photos of Pittman (and others) from Saturday's game.

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