Holiday Spread: Holmes, Ginn Shine in New Offense

Ohio State's offense began to evolve this season with more multiple receiver sets. Today, we have comments from Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn, who make it no secret that they are enjoying the changes.

Ohio State will always be known as a power running team.

However, the Buckeyes' offense began to evolve this season. We saw more three and four wide receiver sets. More shotgun.

While OSU fans enjoy the changes, no one is happier than receivers Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn.

Holmes led the Buckeyes in all of the major receiving categories this year. He finished the regular season with 50 receptions for 722 yards (14.4) and seven touchdowns.

Ginn didn't get too many opportunities early in the year, but obviously finished the season as one of the most electrifying players in college football. He just scratched the surface this year offensively, and capped the regular season with 19 receptions for 281 yards (14.8) and two scores.

When Holmes signed with OSU out of Belle Glade, Fla., he knew he was coming to a school known for its running game. But he also knew the Buckeyes had a history of sending receivers to the NFL.

What he didn't expect was to see the offense transform into a spread team.

"Sometimes, there is just time for a change," Holmes said. "And the way our offense is being changed right now to not a running style, but opening it up for the skill guys – as far as the receivers – I think it's a great change. I think it's great because a lot of schools, they can want that, and a lot of school can't. When you've got guys that have the potential of making big plays, every day coming into practice working hard, I think you've just got to give them that opportunity. You can't be real successful, I'd say probably seven times out of 10, unless you spread the ball around and let guys have the opportunity to make plays for the team.

"As far as us going into the two-receiver set, it hasn't been real big for us this year, and the previous year. So, I guess it was time for a change, for Coach (Jim Tressel) to make the opportunity for us a lot better."

As for Ginn, the spread is what he is used to. This is nothing new for him.

"It's been this way since I've been here," Ginn said. "I don't really know how it was last year, or the year before that. This is how it is and I like it."

Holmes and Ginn each have a strong rapport with OSU starting quarterback Troy Smith. The three hang out a lot together off the field, and Holmes says Smith is just beginning to show his stuff on the field.

"Troy hasn't even been our quarterback for a full season," Holmes said. "Next year, it's going to be fun to see what he will do. He's the type of quarterback that can do it all."

Ginn played with Smith for one season at Glenville High School, so torturing defensive backs is old news for them.

"We just go out there and have fun," Ginn said. "There's a lot of potential there. We just have to enhance it every time we go out and play. Every time we come out to practice, every time we hit the weight room. I mean, whatever you do. When you're out at night, you just have to enhance everything and just keep having fun."

Much has been said of Smith's strong leadership abilities. He is a fiery quarterback who isn't afraid to get in a teammate's grill if they deserve it. But, Holmes says that Smith isn't necessarily a better leader than backup QB Justin Zwick.

"I just think Troy was the same leader as Justin was," Holmes said. "Troy's probably a lot more aggressive with his leadership. When you make a mistake, he'll give you that quarterback look that's saying, ‘You don't need to make those kind of mistakes. We need those plays. You're capable of making the play, so make it.' You know, but at the same time, he understands that we are humans, we can make mistakes, and that we just have to play together and understand how each other plays."

It was about midseason when Ginn started playing a lot of offense. He was lining up in the slot quite a bit, and even a few times in the backfield.

"Well, when they first put me in the backfield, I was kind of scared," Ginn said. "I was like, ‘I hope they don't give me no inside play.' But, as we kept going on and seeing what we were doing, it was fun. I always think of myself as a tailback and just to line up, it was fun."

Now, the "ShotGinn" offense is a household name in Ohio.

"I mean, I didn't know that was going to be a main thing, I thought it was just a package that they put in for that week," Ginn said. "And then I guess, you know, it kept working and working, and they kept it like that."

Ginn says that it didn't bother him that he wasn't getting a lot of offensive touches early in the season. He said he needed to learn the ropes.

"I just stayed patient and just keep learning," Ginn said. "You have to learn the offensive side because that's the hardest thing to learn. So, as I kept learning as the year went on, I managed to get the ball more and more and more."

Ginn almost single-handedly beat Michigan State, then had a big game in the win over Michigan as well. So, which game was more fun for him?

The Buckeyes utilized an interesting formation on punt returns this season. Instead of just sticking one guy back there, they went with the tandem of Ginn and Holmes.

"Well, you know, it's just an opportunity for both guys to get the ball," Ginn said. "If they kick it away from me, they're going to get Santonio. If they kick away from Santonio, they're going to kick to me. It's just an opportunity for us to score. So, it was fun to be back there.

"And then it's protection too, because the off returner, if he doesn't get the ball, he comes up and makes a block for you. You actually need that because you never know who might slip their block, or fall, or anything, so it's just great."

Ginn only returned two kickoffs this season, but will obviously get more chances in that role next year.

"Well, you know, with Mo Hall leaving and everything, there will be an opportunity," Ginn said.

Ginn did not get any reps at defensive back in bowl practice, but he will likely be a two-way performer in 2005.

"No, not during bowl practice, but I think probably next year," Ginn said.

The players want to end this season with an Alamo Bowl victory over Oklahoma State, but they can't help but look ahead to next year. With nearly everyone back, Ohio State is likely to be a top 10 team.

"It's going to be real great," Holmes said. "If we can keep up the same flow that we have right now, I think we're going to be unstoppable. And our defense, everybody's coming back, except for about three guys, and I think it's going to be real big for us."

And it's not just Holmes and Ginn catching passes. The Buckeyes have Roy Hall, and redshirt freshman Anthony Gonzalez really came on at the end of the season. Even though they're only a year apart, Holmes has taken Gonzalez under his wing a little bit.

"When Gonzo first came in, he was playing defensive back when he first came here," Holmes said. "They switched him over to receiver and he needed somebody to help guide him. I was the one, you know, being an underclassman just like he was, I helped him out. He's really developed into a good receiver.

"The thing he really needs to work on right now is just really understanding the game. He can get out there, he can run great routes, and he can catch the ball and he can make big plays. But if he just really gets out there and understands what it's all about and how the game is really played, I think he'll be an even better receiver."

Holmes was also asked to give his take on freshman tailback Antonio Pittman – who will be battling for the starting job next year along with Erik Haw.

"A lot of quickness, speed," Holmes said of Pittman. "It's going to be a lot. You can't really say right now what's going to happen in the future, you just have to go with it. I think he's going to be a great back. Coming in next year, he might have the upper hand on everybody. So, we just hope he gets out there and lives up to the potential that we have for him."

Holmes made second-team All-Big Ten this season, behind first-teamers Braylon Edwards and Taylor Stubblefield. But Holmes is not satisfied with that.

"Not at all, not at all," he said. "I felt I did great enough to become first team, but when you've got guys that have been there and have put in their time and have worked for theirs, they deserve it. So, next year, I'll become first team."

And we had to ask Holmes if he was named after the city of San Antonio.

"I don't think so," he said. "It came from my dad. His name is Santonio too." But plenty of people have asked him about the connection recently. The two names are so similar.

"I've definitely got some questions about it from friends, family and teammates, but I've never really thought about it," Holmes said. "I said I'd probably do a little research before I go down and probably have some questions prepared for answers."

Holmes is excited to go up against Oklahoma State. He thinks the Buckeyes will have some big play opportunities.

"Their DBs are very small, but they're very aggressive," Holmes said. "Their safeties, they can hit pretty hard. And I think their DBs can cover pretty good, but I think they are suspect to the deep ball at times, if you can get past them."

* Back to the Ginn-Smith connection for a moment. The two are like brothers, so they're allowed to rip on each other a little bit.

Ginn was asked if Smith would ever say anything negative about him.

"He would say I'm spoiled," Ginn said.

And Ginn's response?

"I am."

OK, so what would Ginn say about Smith that no one knows?

"I don't know," he said. "He's not a fashion player, but he likes to wear nice things. One thing a lot of people probably don't know is that he likes to dress up and look good. So, that's probably all I can say about him."

Ginn says that Smith, Holmes and himself do not go out all that much. They usually can be found playing video games, or talking football.

"If we go out, we'd probably go to eat, then the movies or something," Ginn said. Ginn is also an accomplished track athlete and has aspirations of being an Olympic hurdler. But, he's not sure when or if he will join the OSU track teams (winter indoor and/or spring outdoor).

"I don't know right now," Ginn said. "I'm just going to let this ride out, then talk to the football coaches and they're going to talk to the track coaches and we'll go from there."

But Ginn will definitely be around for spring football practice.

"Yeah, no matter what's going on with track, I'll be there for spring ball," he said.

What events will Ginn participate in if he does join the track team?

"I don't know," he said. "I like the hurdles, so I'll probably be doing hurdles."

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