Pittman Has Lofty Goals For Himself, Team

Is it possible for an Ohio State running back to have a "quiet" 1,331-yard season? Apparently so, as was proven by Antonio Pittman in 2005. Pittman still isn't mentioned as one of the best backs in the country, but that could very well change this season. We caught up with Pittman who gave his goals for the 2006 season, his thoughts on freshman tailback Chris Wells, and much more.

Ohio State tailback Antonio Pittman is one of those athletes that can be confident without sounding arrogant and cocky.

Last year he exploded for 1,331 rushing yards and he has even bigger plans for his junior season.

"I'm feeling great," Pittman said. "Going into my junior year, I've grown a lot since I've been here. My mindset is just to get out here and tear it up this year. I want to lead the Big Ten in rushing this year and I want to be up there in the top five of the nation, if not No. 1 in the nation. I want to be No. 1."

Pittman never shies away from making specific goals and he revealed where he has set the bar for the 2006 season.

"I want to say 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns," he said. "Those would be great numbers for me. But I would take a lot less to win a national championship."

The Buckeyes are the preseason No. 1 team according to the USA Today/Coaches Poll (as well as several publications like Sports Illustrated) and Pittman says the Buckeyes must stay focused and not feel too good about the lofty ranking.

"I think it's different coming in No. 1 just because there are high expectations," he said. "But we still want to approach it as if it was last year and just give it all we've got."

Pittman (5-11, 203) will be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the Big Ten this season. The Buckeyes are experienced and talented up front.

"Oh yeah, feeling real good about the O-line," Pittman said. "I can hide behind those big dudes. I'm a little guy and having those big guys with all the experience that they have is going to be great."

But it won't be a one-man show at tailback this season. Pittman will be the starter, but freshman Chris Wells is sure to play a lot. Most returning starters in Pittman's shoes might be threatened about possibly sharing the ball with a first-year player, but Pittman and Wells are friends and Pittman knows having two solid backs is best for the team.

"Our relationship is good," Pittman said. "We're both from Akron and we've known each other before coming here and we'll be friends after all this is done. Anything he has a question on he comes and asks me or the coaches and I just try and help him as much as I can. I only have two more years here, and he has three more. So, he's going to be the future back – him and Mo Wells – and we've got to keep it going."

Pittman was asked if there are any similarities in his running style and Wells'.

"No, not at all," he said. "He's a different type of dude. His running style is completely different. He doesn't shy away from it at all. He wants the contact. He's coming in here and he's got the label and he feels as if that's what he needs to do. But in all actuality, when it comes down to it, you need to save your body. He's putting a pounding on people, but we'll be in the room at night and he'll be talking about, ‘Man, my shoulder hurts.' I learned that early. You can't keep taking a pounding – you have to make somebody miss."

If Pittman and Wells share the load early in the season, it could keep Pittman fresh for the stretch run of the season.

"Oh yeah, without a doubt," Pittman said. "I think looking back on last year, that's what happened. We didn't have as much depth, but I was still taken out early in the season, and then the last couple games I played the whole game. So, they used me that way last year."

Despite rushing for 1,331 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and scoring seven touchdowns, Pittman didn't draw national acclaim for his big 2005 season. As was dissected in the cover story of the September issue of Bucknuts the Magazine, Pittman somehow had a "quiet" 1,300-yard season. If you pick up a national college football preview, there is about a 50/50 chance Pittman will be listed in the top 25 running backs in the country. One would think he would be top 15 no questions asked.

"Most of the guys who put up yards, they have a lot of touchdowns," Pittman said about the lack of national attention. "Touchdowns play a big factor in it. But I'm not mad about my season. Everything happens for a reason and I'm happy I got 1,300 yards. I had a great offensive line last year and hopefully this offensive line can be better and I we can put up more yardage with more backs and more yardage in the air."

Pittman is a solid receiver out of the backfield (17 receptions for 161 yards last year) and he hopes to be used in that role even more this season.

"Oh yeah," he said. "It worked in key situations for us last year and hopefully they'll use me more than just a bail-out situation."

Pittman missed all of spring practice with a pulled hamstring. Those injuries have a tendency of lingering, but the tailback says he is fine.

"My body feels good," he said. "Hamstring, haven't had any problems with it. Going into camp every day and getting banged every day, you get sore, but I've just got to treat my body right."

The Buckeyes are in the midst of the dog days of camp. The initial excitement is gone and they are now grinding and looking forward to getting the season underway.

"Yeah, this is by far the hardest part of camp," Pittman said. "You're beating your body up and you get like an hour nap before you've got to go over there and get treatment. Then, you're right back up early in the morning – like 6:45. It is hard, but it will pay off in the long run.

"A lot of the guys, in order to get through it mentally, we try and have fun with it if possible. You know, play around at night so people can't go to sleep, bang on doors, just to make it fun and get through it. It's hard enough going through this process, but when you're not having fun with it, it makes it even worse."

Pittman can't say enough about Troy Smith's leadership skills. Yes, any senior quarterback is going to be a leader, but Smith takes it to the next level.

"Troy is a great leader," Pittman said. "As the quarterback, he should be the leader of the team. Everybody has to put trust in him and he has to lead us in all the games. He did a great job of leading us last year and the year before that and hopefully he will just keep it going."

Pittman also gave his take on the competition at fullback between senior Stan White Jr., and junior Dionte Johnson. True freshman Aram Olson is also in there banging heads.

"Fullback situation it is coming along real good," Pittman said. "Stan and Dionte are out here battling for the job and Aram is learning the offense. It's hard to know who to block and when and how to kick him out."

The Buckeyes will be able to be as versatile as they want offensively this year. They could line up and come right at you as a power-I team, or they could spread it out. But you already know which style Pittman prefers.

"Hopefully we'll be a power-I team," he said with a smile. "If we're power-I, that's more carries and we can control the clock a lot more.

"Our offense is very potent. We have players that can put up the big numbers, we just have to be on the same page."


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