"It's definitely a lot more reps," Haw said after splitting time with sophomore Antonio Pittman. "I haven't had that many reps since high school. It's nice to carry the ball again. There is a battle going on at the tailback spot."
Business has picked up for Haw, the former 3,000-yard rusher at Columbus Independence High School. He has gone from the low pressure of redshirting and playing on the scout team last fall to competing with Pittman for the starting spot. They are the only two scholarship tailbacks in camp this spring. (They will be joined by Florida prep standout Maurice Wells in the fall.)
"I just want to work hard and battle for the tailback spot and just try to help the team anyway I can," Haw said. "I definitely bring a lot of speed to the table. Antonio also has a lot of speed. I think a lot of teams are going to realize that these two backs can take it the distance. I have to give it 100 percent every down."
OSU coach Jim Tressel admitted that he and running backs coach Dick Tressel will have to manage the situation at tailback. After all, Haw and Pittman need all the work they can get to prove themselves. But the team can't afford to lose either of them to an injury, either.
"You have to be careful and not overdo it in drills because the lines aren't very deep," Jim Tressel said. "We do think we have to be a little careful with that. I think you have to be careful how many times you ram it in there and hit them because I want them, again, to get those 15 days of reps. I think we'll have to be creative.
"We have to make sure they get reps at the right times with the right things. They need to survive things like blitz pick-ups and running the ball and so forth. We have to create a good situation and not wear them out."
Haw reflected on sitting out last fall.
"It was a long year, I can tell you that much," he said. "You want to be out there on the field and helping the team. But when you have a year off from playing football, all you can do is push yourself. Now I just want to prove myself."
Haw figures that, although he didn't see any game action, he earned some stripes by running against OSU's defense.
"All last year, I practiced against A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter on the scout team," he said. "So it's not so much of a change. I just have to go out every day and do my job."
Haw worked hard during the off-season.
"I've gotten rid of the baby fat," he said. "My weight is about the same, still about 210."
The Buckeyes had seniors Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall at tailback last fall when Haw arrived. But Haw knows all eyes are now on he and Pittman.
"We had a lot of upperclassmen when I got here," Haw said. "I didn't think my time would come this quickly. I know now I can get that chance if I can take advantage of my skills. If I can take one the distance and showcase some of my power and speed, maybe that would show them I can get the job done and carry the load."
Haw admitted he and Pittman carry a lot of responsibility.
"We have a great team with high expectations and we both want to do what's best for the team," he said. "We know that goes with the territory here at Ohio State. You have to take care of your business on and off the field."
Tressel discussed what Haw brings to the table.
"I think Erik has a lot of explosiveness," he said. "He's a good ball handler and a receiver as well. He's got himself to about 215, so he's a good sized back. He's a guy who once he knows more and can just let loose, I think he'll be an exciting back.
"I know we don't have quantity there and I know we won't have quantity there at the end of 15 days. But I do think we'll have quality and both of them we'll work at it hard."