Countdown To Spring: Who Will Be At Tailback?

We continue our Countdown To Spring Football series with a look at the tailback position. Redshirt freshman Erik Haw and sophomore Antonio Pittman will go head to head this spring. Click here for more.

Last Tuesday, we began our Countdown to Spring Football with the first of 10 pressing questions for Ohio State to answer this spring.

Spring drills open up Thursday with the Scarlet and Gray Game set for April 23 at Ohio Stadium.

Working backward from No. 10, we are up to the fourth pressing question leading into spring football.

* 4. Who is going to play running back for OSU in 2005?

It has been a long time since Ohio State had one go-to tailback. Even in the national championship season of 2002, standout Maurice Clarett missed all of three games and parts of two others due to injuries.

That trend does not appear to change in 2005 as sophomore Antonio Pittman (5-11, 190) and redshirt freshman Erik Haw (6-1, 210) go into the spring bracketed as the starters at tailback. Pittman got 72 carries for 381 yards (5.3 average) spread over 11 games last season, while Haw worked with the scout team.

Pittman flashed a ton of ability early, but had some consistency issues. Haw has a combination of speed and strength that the coaches may eventually opt for.

Those two will be given every opportunity to win the job this spring before they are joined by Florida prep standout Maurice Wells, who will enroll in the fall.

Of course, the coaches will be walking a fine line of testing Pittman and Haw this spring, but not risking injury because of the poor depth situation at the position.

It is possible that OSU will rely heavily on walk-ons or players from other positions to get through spring practice.

"If I had to predict, I would predict, yeah, they will both help carry the load this year," running backs coach Dick Tressel said. "I mean, I would have to go back and look, but I don't think there's been a season at Ohio State that there hasn't been two or three tailbacks that have to share the burden -- at least since I've been here."

If the Buckeyes can sustain drives in 2005 and improve their running game, Tressel says there will be more rushing opportunities for Haw and Pittman.

"The better they are and the better we are, the ball has to be shared," Tressel said. "As we get better at offense and better at running the football – because they are good players – there's going to be more turns with the ball to share. As a group, the running backs earn the right to have the ball given to them. Once they get the right to have it given to them, now it gets shared around a little bit."

Previous Installments

On Tuesday, we began this 10-part feature with the No. 10 pressing question for the spring:

10. Will several players "on the spot" deliver?

Click this link for a look at that installment including spring practice dates, the 2005 schedule and returning starters for OSU in 2005.

Countdown To Spring: Players on the Spot

On Wednesday, we had question No. 9: 9. Will Ted Ginn Jr. spend a great deal of his time at cornerback?

Countdown To Spring: Two-Way Ted?

On Thursday, we had question No. 8: 8. How will new assistant coach Paul Haynes fare in his debut with the Buckeyes?

Countdown To Spring: Welcome, Coach Haynes

On Friday, we had question No. 7: 7. How will OSU juggle the linebackers and will Mike D'Andrea be full-go?

Countdown To Spring: Juggling The LBs

On Saturday, we had question No. 6: 6. Will somebody step up at defensive end?

Countdown To Spring: Stepping Up At End

On Sunday, we had question No. 5: 5. Will the offensive line continue its progression and, as a result, will the running game come back any time soon?

Countdown To Spring: Putting It On The Line

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