Ginn, Pittman Swing Into Spring

Two of the keys to Ohio State's offense in 2005 will be the play of wide receiver Ted Ginn and tailback Antonio Pittman. Both players are sophomores with a lot of responsibilities. We caught up with Ginn and Pittman for their thoughts on spring ball and more.

Sophomore Ted Ginn Jr. is hearing all the early prognostications. He knows Ohio State is expected to be at least a top-10 team this season and compete for the national championship. And Ginn says it's never too early to talk about the Rose Bowl.

"We've got a very good team," Ginn said. "We've got a lot of guys coming back and we've got a lot of seniors that are stepping up and coming to the plate and getting the young guys together. And you know, we're just going to go from there."

Ginn will do most of his damage on offense and special teams in 2005. But there has also been talk of getting him some snaps at cornerback.

"Well, you know, I can't really call that right now, because we're just in spring ball and we're going to see how it goes from here," Ginn said. "Right now, I'm not playing any defense."

As a freshman in 2004, the 6-0, 170-pound Ginn emerged as one of the most versatile and explosive players in the country. He had 25 receptions for 359 yards (14.4) and two touchdowns; rushed 13 times for 113 yards (8.7 per carry) and two touchdowns; and had 15 punt returns for 384 yards and four touchdowns. The punt return TD's tied an NCAA record.

This year, Ginn will add one trick to his show. He will return kickoffs. That is why there is not a pressing need to play him at defensive back right now. If there are injuries, he will be the first player to fill in at corner. But until that need arises, he'll stick to receiving, running and returning.

Ginn was asked to assess the Buckeyes' situation at tailback. There is not much depth, but Ginn likes the talent.

"Erik Haw, Tony Pittman, they are very good friends of mine," Ginn said. "We all came in as freshmen. We all knew each other before we came in. They are two great backs. Both of them have big bodies that can move fast and play with good speed. So, they're going to back there and compete. I'm not going to say who is going to win the job, but hey, two backs coming at you, that's hard times. Two fresh backs, you know, you can't stop that."

Ginn says it's good for the development of Haw and Pittman to be the only scholarship tailbacks on the roster this spring. It allows them to get most of the reps.

"Yeah, it just gets you back into the swing of things and gets you moving and it's just great," Ginn said.

* Pittman is never going to fall under the category of a "big back," but he is definitely thicker than at this time last year.

"I've been hitting the weights a lot harder," Pittman said. "There's a lot of pounding, you just have to be ready for it."

Pittman checked in at 185 pounds last spring when he graduated high school early and reported to OSU for spring drills. A full year in the program working with strength coach Al Johnson has added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame.

"Yeah, I'm 195 and I want to play around 200," Pittman said.

Pittman's lower body is extremely strong. During winter conditioning, he led the speed group in several strength and conditioning categories, including the broad jump (10-5) and squat (565).

"My offseason was all right," Pittman said. "I feel that I accomplished (my goals) throughout the winter and everything with the weightlifting program and putting on weight. I still have a couple more pounds to gain, but I feel good. The season is here."

Pittman welcomes all the extra reps this spring. He and Haw will shoulder most of the load.

"Yeah, you get a lot of work," Pittman said. "It's needed work for both of us, because regardless of who starts the opener, we're both going to play. And we need all the reps we can get. Basically, it's two freshmen back there. You know, I played some last year and I know what to expect, but it's a different game every week."

Pittman rushed for 381 yards (5.1 per carry) and one touchdown in 2004. He was the Buckeyes' leading rusher going into the Alamo Bowl.

But Pittman says he is not approaching the spring as the starter.

"I'm just approaching it as if I was the backup," he said. "Still got to work hard, do the same things. The job is not no one's now. But by the end of the season, we'll find out who's job it is."

Pittman and Haw could make a good tandem this year if they can stay healthy.

"He's capable of doing the same thing I'm doing," Pittman said of Haw. "We're both looking good out here. It's first day, so we've got to wait for the pads to come on, it's a long spring, see how it turns out."

It's hard to believe that a school like Ohio State – historically known for its outstanding running backs – would only have two scholarship tailbacks on the roster.

"I mean, I'm not surprised because I knew what to expect going into the spring," Pittman said. "We've got one coming in (Maurice Wells) and one already committed (Chris Wells). So, going into the spring I knew it was just going to be me and Erik on scholarship, a couple walk-ons. A fullback might jump in and play a little tailback, but I knew it was going to be like this coming into the spring."

Last year, including fullback Branden Joe and former walk-ons Roshawn Parker and Mike DeMaria, there were six scholarship tailbacks in the spring. That's a pretty big contrast to this year, but Pittman shrugs it off.

"I mean, it's not really going to be a big difference," he said. "It's just going to be more like taking the pounding. But it's needed reps. So, that's going to be the better thing. We both get a chance to carry the ball equal, instead of being Lydell (Ross), Mo Hall, me, Erik, Ro-P, we get the same carries now."

Pittman was asked if running backs coach Dick Tressel has ever singled out one area of Pittman's game that needs the most improvement.

"No, he's never said anything about a certain quality or anything," Pittman said. "It's just getting out there and getting the job done, really."

But Pittman does admit that his blocking needs work.

"I feel that I am becoming a good blocker, but that is something you can always work on," he said. "It just about knowing your assignment and carrying it out all the time."

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