Can we win with a good tailback? Or do we need a great tailback?
Keep in mind our good tailbacks are other team's great tailbacks. We just need solid production from that position. We need them to hang onto the football. We need them to pass protect. We need them to hit the short yardage situations. We need decent hands. Do we need a 1500 yard guy? No. We do need a 1000 yard guy though. With Ted Ginn, Troy Smith and Santonio Holmes, we should have adequate firepower that can put our Silver Bullets in good situations. Poor tailback play will jeopardize our consistency. However, solid tailback play will create the two-dimensional offensive monster that will make the other 10 teams cringe.
I think Antonio Pittman is a stud. He makes rushing the football look easy. During 2004, he was elusive enough to avoid the lopsided collisions, but strong enough to go outside or inside. He is fluid. He looks athletic with the football. He looks natural. Fans prefer results as opposed to looking natural, but it sure is a start. As a true freshman, Pittman found the field and showed some real nice flashes. I feel his future is very bright. If he keeps his nose clean and holds onto the football, he will excel in 2005.
Erik Haw will get plenty of opportunity this spring. The dazzling 40-yard dash shines that much brighter when you consider he has a reputation as a pretty physical player. Pittman's experience will help in determining the starting tailback, but the coaches see two young players that should be hungry. The coaches won't decide who the go-to-guy is. Pittman and Haw will decide that.
Either way, we need production. Jim Tressel and Jim Bollman showed time and time again the empty set backfield with Smith/Zwick in the shotgun. As a former defender, the offense gets much trickier with a legit tailback moved into the backfield next to that shotgunned quarterback. Did the quarterback hand that ball off? Did the quarterback fake that handoff and keep it around the end? Is that tailback releasing into the passing game? Is there a screen or a draw being set up? There are advantages to the empty set, but there are more advantages to having a tailback lined up with that quarterback.