Offensive Notebook: Haw, Pittman, Hall

We have even more comments from freshman tailback Erik Haw in this offensive notebook. We also caught up with sophomore tailback Antonio Pittman and junior receiver Roy Hall for their thoughts on spring ball and more.

Looking back, freshman tailback Erik Haw is glad he redshirted in 2004. He didn't want to sit out the entire season at the time, but he knows now that it was for the best.

"Yeah, I think God works in mysterious ways and I just try and humble myself and be patient," Haw said. "Patience is a virtue, so I feel like He redshirted me and that's where I was supposed to be and I'm here now.

"I'm pleased it worked out the way it did. I got a season to learn and adjust and now I think I'm ready to help this team out."

Coming into the 2004 season, many expected that Haw would redshirt. But he did not know for sure until sometime in October.

"It was about three-fourths through the year," he said. "(Head coach Jim Tressel) said if a few running backs get injured, then there's a good chance that I'll play. Maybe midway, or a little more than midway through the year, they were like, ‘You're going to be redshirted, so just make sure you get to a lot of the workouts now and start concentrating.'"

This spring, Haw is competing with sophomore Antonio Pittman for the starting job. Right now, it appears as though Pittman is the man to beat.

"He gets most of the reps with the ones," Haw said. "I get a few here and there and I get all the reps with the twos."

Haw likes the fact that there are just two scholarship tailbacks on the spring roster.

"It's a lot of pounding," he said. "You get used to getting a lot of reps. I think that's the best thing about football. It's not about how you start, it's about how you finish."

No matter who wins the starting job, both Haw and Pittman are going to play a lot this season. That is why Haw is not consumed with trying to be the starter.

"I don't think it's really about that," he said. "Just like you see Auburn and Minnesota, they both had two great backs. We can do the same thing here. It's not about who starts. You know, one day it might be (Pittman's) game, and one day it might be mine. I just want to put my ability on the field and use it the best way I know how."

Haw is listed at 6-1, 210 pounds, but he says he weighs a little bit more than that.

"I'm around 212, 215," he said. "It doesn't really get much more than that, especially with the sweating and stuff. I stay a lean 212, 215."

Haw has excellent straight line speed, but has not been timed in the 40 recently.

"My lowest was 4.21, but that was way back when (in the summer of 2003)," he said. "I haven't actually done that lately, but we should do it after the spring."

OK, fair enough. But could Haw still run that fast?

"Well, 4.21, that's pretty low," he said with a smile. "I try and stay in the 4.2, 4.3-range at this size."

Finally, Haw was asked to name the surprise player of the spring so far.

"I would have to say someone I came in with – (defensive end) Alex Barrow," he said. "He's doing a wonderful job just causing havoc. And I told him if he keeps on getting in my face in the backfield on pass protection, I'm going to cut him. I just told him watch his back."

* As for Pittman, he enjoys the lack of depth at tailback this spring. He's seen both sides of the ledger and prefers it this way because he can get extra work in. Last year, there were six scholarship tailbacks in the spring (including former walk-ons Roshawn Parker and Mike DeMaria) which limited the repetitions for everyone.

"I think with it just being us two, we're getting the reps that's needed," Pittman said. "I think it's better this way. Unlike last year, when everything was so spaced out. Probably the whole day you probably touched the ball five, six times. And now, since it's just the two of us, we're both touching the ball at least 15 times a day and it's needed reps."

Pittman says the competition is intense since there are just two players vying for the job.

"I would say it's more of a competition because every time I touch the ball the coaches are evaluating me, and every time he touches the ball they're evaluating him," he said. "So, I would say it makes it more of a competition because it's more of a focus on just two guys instead of everyone."

Pittman graduated high school early and participated in spring drills last year. That gave him an early leg up on Haw. Pittman also received valuable playing time as a freshman, rushing for 381 yards (5.3 per carry) and one touchdown.

"I just gave me a gap of being able to know the feel of the game," Pittman said. "Just the speed. Practice is practice, but just the game tempo is a lot different than practice. You've got everybody flying at you, you've got the crowd, coaches. It's a lot of things."

Haw has been trying to catch up with Pittman ever since preseason camp of 2004.

"I don't really look at it like he's catching up to me," Pittman said. "Because regardless of the fact that I didn't redshirt, I still have to work hard, or harder. So, I don't look at it like he has to catch up to me or anything."

When asked how his game has changed from last year, Pittman said: "I don't think I've changed. Just got a little bigger, little stronger. More aware of the game now. Just let it come to me. I don't try and rush anything."

Pittman did not want to single out anyone as the "surprise" player of the spring.

"It's just been the offensive as a whole," he said. "We've been moving the ball real well."

Yes, the Buckeyes have used the spring as a time to work on the shotgun-spread passing attack. But Pittman says the running game has not been ignored. In fact, far from it.

"I would say we took this spring as just a running spring," he said. "I say we ran the ball more than we passed, and that's all right with me. I like it."

* Junior receiver Roy Hall was asked for his take on the battle at tailback.

"I don't know who has the edge right now," Hall said. "Maybe we'll end up with two guys in the backfield. But right now, those guys are doing a great job."

Ohio State has an abundance of talent at wide receiver and Hall is just hoping to stay on the two-deep. But with the Buckeyes using more three and four-wide sets this season, there will be playing time available for Hall.

"Definitely," he said. "We've got guys all over the field. We're spreading it out a lot more, as we did against Michigan. We've got to utilize peoples' talents. I think a lot of the fans and media have been saying that for the last couple of years and last year we showed that towards the end of the season. So, I think we're going to pick up where we left off last season."

Hall is not sure what his role will be this season. He could be a big, possession-type receiver, or he could be a hybrid that rotates between several positions.

"Right now, I guess a lot of people say I'm a tweener," Hall said. "Right now, I'm about 6-3, 237, 238. But I'm still running like I was when I was 215. And that's the honest-to-god truth. So, I feel like I can do a lot to help the team. I mean, wherever they want to put me at, right now, we're experimenting. It's spring ball, we're having fun, see how things go and we'll just go from there."

When Hall says the team has been experimenting with him, he's not joking. About the only place he hasn't lined up is quarterback.

"I played a little tailback last week," he said. "I'm thinking I'm going to play a little bit of tight end this year – still along with playing the X and Z receiver, split out wide. So, we'll just see how it goes. I don't have any problem with it. Anything to help the team. I'm trying to do the best I can this year and stay on the field as long as possible and that's about it."

Where is Hall most comfortable?

"All of it actually," he said. "I haven't done too much of the tight end thing. The hard part will probably be blocking those big D-ends. But getting out in coverage and running my routes, can't nobody stop me from the inside because I'm a receiver at heart.

"It's just a little bit of learning. The system's the same, just a little bit of learning, that's all."

Hall might look like a tight end, but he still runs like a receiver, which could create problems for linebackers trying to cover him.

"Definitely," he said. "Mismatches across the field. That's how you win games: creating mismatches. That's what we did with number seven (Ted Ginn) last year. He came out of nowhere and if you create mismatches like that, then you become unstoppable."

Hall is looking forward to the spring game Saturday. He thinks back to his first spring game in 2003 when he could not believe that nearly 60,000 fans showed up.

"It was crazy," he said. "Because it's a scrimmage and to see the support of the community and the fans is just great. So, I knew once you stepped in the 'Shoe and there was 105,000 it was going to be ridiculous. It was real exciting the first time in there."

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