Ginn Keeps Heisman Hype, Life In Perspective

Many of the preseason magazines have Ohio State sophomore flanker Ted Ginn Jr. on the cover and predicted as a Heisman Trophy candidate. But Ginn takes all of the hype in stride. His father's recent health scare has helped him put things in the proper perspective. He discusses his evolution as a receiver and his goals for the upcoming year.

When asked if he is, indeed, a Heisman Trophy candidate, Ohio State sophomore flanker Ted Ginn Jr. has a ready-made response.

"It's up to the judges," Ginn said Tuesday as the sixth-ranked Buckeyes continued preparations for their 2005 season opener against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.

When a reporter said it could also be up to Ginn, he nodded and said, "If I play well, which I hope I can do."

Ginn, humble as ever, takes a ho-hum approach to all of the hype surrounding him. He has seen his picture on the cover of various preseason magazines. He has heard his name linked with incumbent Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinhart of USC and other possible candidates such as USC's Reggie Bush, Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and Texas' Vince Young. He is already listed as a nominee for the Fred Biletnikoff and Walter Camp Awards.

The 6-0, 175-pound Ginn likes the attention, but does not intend to let it change him.

"It feels good," Ginn said. "You like to have all that stuff. But like I've said, it's here one day and gone the next. You just have to go out and keep fighting and keep practicing hard and playing hard. You'll lose it if you don't play hard."

Ginn is putting the team first, he says, in his quest to help bring a Big Ten (and possibly national) championship to Ohio State.

"As far as the Heisman goes, I'm just going to let that take care of itself," he said. "It feels good to be up for the Heisman. The Heisman is a great thing, but you can't base your season on it. I'm just going to play hard for my seniors and for the team. Our seniors, this is their last time going out. I'm going to play hard for them. I can still do this for three more years. I want them to win a championship. That's all I'm worried about.

"When you're a team player, you just concentrate on the team. Yet let all of the awards take care of themselves."

Some of Ginn's excitement for the new season was dulled in mid-August, when his father, Ted Ginn Sr., was hospitalized. The elder Ginn underwent surgery as well as a biopsy for cancer. But late last week, the family received word that everything should be fine.

"Everything, all the tests, came back negative," Ginn Jr. said. "Right now, he's just at home and getting well."

Ted Ginn Sr. doubled as his son's coach at Cleveland Glenville High School.

"He's my father," he said. "He's been everything – a brother, a father, an uncle. Whatever you need him to be, he's there for you to be.

"One thing he told me was, `If I go down, you have to step up and be a man.' I did that this year. I came in and stepped up and worked hard through that adversity."

If Ginn has a full season patterned after his last eight games from 2004, he could very well be in the mix for postseason honors.

Ginn, who was USA Today's national defensive player of the year as a senior at Glenville in 2003, opened fall camp last year at cornerback. He moved full-time to wide receiver early in the season and, by midseason, had become a starter.

He ended up scoring eight touchdowns on the year. However, it was the way he scored them that was remarkable – six of his touchdown plays were 58 yards or longer. He was OSU's second leading receiver with 25 catches for 359 yards and two touchdowns. He also had two rushing scores and tied an NCAA single-season mark with four punt return touchdowns, although Hawaii's Chad Owens later broke that mark with five punt return scores.

"When I get the ball, I just try to find holes and alleys to get through," Ginn said. "I just try to work with it. My father always told me, `Once you get the ball, use your shoes.' That's what I try to do.

"Sometimes, I do some incredible things. But it's all up to God helping me out and my teammates setting up blocks. I just go out there and play ball."

Ginn was asked if he expects to score every time he touches the ball.

"I don't expect to score, but I expect to help put my team in position to score," he said. "If I get down to the 1 or the 5, I expect six points or three. That's all you can do."

Ohio State's reputation through the years has been as a "three yards and a cloud of dust" team. However, there is every indication that the Buckeyes will utilize more of a spread look this season than ever before.

One only has to look at the team's depth chart, which for the first time ever lists 12 players on offense – a move many schools have made in recent years to recognize a third wide receiver, who routinely plays 50 percent or more of the team's offensive snaps. In this case, Ginn is joined in the listed starting lineup with senior Santonio Holmes at split end and sophomore Anthony Gonzalez as the slot receiver.

"I know I will get double teamed, but that will just open something up for somebody else," Ginn said. "If they double team me, then my other receivers will be open. If they double team, then I should be open."

OSU coach Jim Tressel is excited about the prospect of using Ginn and his fellow receivers. The coach, who also calls the offensive plays, devised a formation that allowed Ginn to line up at tailback depth, just off the edge of the tight end. The formation permitted Ginn to get a clean acceleration and avoid bump-and-run coverage.

"Ted's been so many different places from a deployment standpoint, I think it's harder (to double him)," Tressel said. "Santonio was the `X' receiver. It's easier to double that man up than it is to do that with Ted if he was the second or third guy in. Ted may have to get used to that."

There was talk earlier that OSU would even use Ginn on defense. That may still happen in some red zone situations later in the year, but Ginn said he has not practiced at corner yet this year.

"Sometimes you get excited because he can do so many things," Tressel said. "It's a long tough season, a lot of physical practices and whatnot, but we are excited as anyone to get the ball in Teddy's hands."

Ginn has made it clear he'll accept whatever role the coaches assign. He figures to again return punts and could add kick returns, some defense and maybe even some time at tailback or quarterback – as he did in OSU's Alamo Bowl win last December.

"Down the road, if they need me to play defense I'll go over there and play defense," he said. "I'm in shape and I'm ready to play ball."

Ginn admits it took him several weeks early last season to adjust to the college game and also to being a full-time offensive player.

"Really, last year, I didn't know too much on the offensive side," he said. "The first three or four weeks, it is hard to adjust when you're coming in as a freshman. But as you play more and more, you get yourself in the right position everything starts to work out.

"Coming in this year, I knew the playbook and should be able to play hard and fast."

Holmes, a standout receiver in his own right with a team-high 55 catches last year, said Ginn will be a weapon.

"He's ready to make plays," Holmes said. "At any time the coach calls his number, he's ready to make plays. I've seen it all summer and all camp. He's ready to make plays. I commend him on being ready. He's just learned from me and Roy (Hall) and Gonzalez. He has caught on real fast."

Ginn credits some of his development this off-season to working with new OSU speed coach Butch Reynolds, a former track All-American at the school and an Olympic gold medalist.

"Butch has helped a lot as far as running and the speed work we do," Ginn said. "We're stretching right and doing everything the right way. It's not just about football. It's about people who have good speed being able to maintain their speed. He's just a great coach."

Ginn is believed to have sub-4.4 second speed in the 40, though he said, "Nobody has clocked me or anything. My teammates say I'm still fast, so …"

Sure enough, Gonzalez recalled one of those special moments where Ginn dazzled everybody with his derring do.

"It was in spring practice," Gonzalez said. "There were three guys who had him wrapped up and it looked like he was all the way down. Then, all of a sudden, you see Ted in the end zone and you're like, ‘How did that happen?'

"There was this heap of bodies and there's no Ted, and then you see him appear in the end zone."

Ginn realizes he will be a marked man for opposing defenses this year. But he said they better come prepared and use proper technique.

"I know a lot of guys will try and take shots at me," he said. "Guys who break down and use the technique will have a shot at me. But guys who lunge and break their neck trying to get to me, I'm going to have a move for them."

Ginn, it seems, in everything he does is "as cool as the other side of the pillow."

"When I get ready for a game, I try to be as relaxed as possible," he said. "I keep a smile on my face at all times, even if I'm nervous. I just try to keep my head right, keep a smile on my face and keep my team right."

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