Gonzalez, Ginn, Datish Look To Boost Offense

Ohio State's offense had its most disappointing showing of the year in last week's 17-10 win over Illinois. But wide receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn Jr., as well as center Doug Datish, are anxious to prove it was a one-week aberration when they take on an improving Northwestern defense this Saturday in Evanston.

Now that Anthony Gonzalez has established himself as one of the top wide receivers in the country, it's interesting to look back on his recruitment and his first few weeks at Ohio State when he was considered a defensive back.

Gonzalez, who was a two-way star at Cleveland St. Ignatius, was moved to wide receiver during his redshirt year in 2003. He can now laugh as he looks back on it all.

"I think that's just part of growing up," he said. "When you're recruited out of high school, who knows what position you're going to play; who knows really anything. Recruiting is different in that I think they just recruit potential. A lot of times you'll have running quarterbacks coming in who have never played receiver in their life and all of a sudden they are playing receiver. Like (Michigan's) Steve Breaston for example, I think he played quarterback in high school. So, that's just part of growing up and just going through the whole process. And that's something that I've tried to help our younger receivers when they come in with: that acclimation process, because that was pretty tough on me."

When Gonzalez graduated from St. Ignatius, he was still somewhat in the dark regarding whether he would end up as a wide receiver at OSU, or a defensive back.

"I wasn't sure to be honest with you," he said. "And that didn't really factor into my decision of where to go to school at all. My decision was based more about how I felt about the coaching staff and the players.

"But, if you would have asked me and forced me to give you an answer, I probably would have said I thought I'd be a receiver, but it really didn't matter to me that much. I had confidence enough that I felt whatever happened was going to be the right thing."

Through 10 games this year, Gonzalez has put up impressive numbers (43 receptions, 639 yards, 14.9 yards per catch, 6 TD) and there is little doubt he has a bright future in professional football.

Gonzalez indicated on Tuesday at the press luncheon that he would return for his senior season in 2007. He probably knows he could leave early and be a first day NFL draft pick, but it doesn't sound like he's in any hurry to make the jump. And really it's no surprise since he embodies everything that is good about college football, being a top-level athlete and student.

On Wednesday, Gonzalez was asked by a national reporter via teleconference if he was considering leaving early.

"Well, I haven't thought about that at all," he said. "When I think of things I want to do at Ohio State, one of the things I've always wanted to be is a senior, just for the sake of going through the whole process of giving senior speech during camp, or potentially becoming a captain and things like that. That's always been really appealing to me. But even that I haven't thought that much about. Right now is a time where you think about whoever you are playing that particular week and getting wins and hopefully putting yourself in a position to win a Big Ten championship and national championship."

Gonzalez missed the second half of the Minnesota game two weeks ago with what was labeled a "minor concussion." But Gonzalez – who suffered a "major" concussion last spring – isn't convinced he was actually concussed this time around.

"For me, I had to take an impact test," he said. "I believe it was developed at the University of Pittsburgh. You take one when you're baseline, without a concussion, and then you compare it when you have one. I scored much better on it with a concussion than when I didn't, which was interesting.

"It's all symptom-based after that. My symptoms went away fairly quickly. I told the trainers I don't think I had a concussion because the very next day I was fine."

Gonzalez also addressed the injury to Ted Ginn Jr. (broken pinky toe) and whether OSU is not throwing enough deep balls to him.

"I think we are trying to use him on the deep balls," Gonzalez said. "There was a pass interference this past week. But I feel like he still has his speed and his route running and his burst. I don't think it has affected him that much. He is still the same great athlete."

Gonzalez was asked if it's important for the top-ranked Buckeyes to make a statement this Saturday at Northwestern with the showdown against No. 2 Michigan looming next week.

"I don't feel that way," he said. "I feel like you play each play to succeed on that play. What happened last week or last month or three years ago, 10 years ago doesn't matter. What's going to happen now on the very next play that's most important. We are hoping to be successful, obviously."

Northwestern is ranked seventh in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing 364.6 yards per game. Senior linebacker Nick Roach is the leader of the unit and has 62 tackles (41 solo) on the season despite missing two games.

"I think they are turning the corner," Gonzalez said. "They had some injuries to some key guys but they are getting them back. They do have quite a bit of talent, despite what people might think. Overall, their secondary is pretty talented. That's the challenge this week, to deal with their experience. Plus, teams just get better over the course of the year."

As an aside, Gonzalez was asked if he took any ribbing from the seven Cleveland Glenville graduates on OSU's roster after the Tarblooders defeated St. Ignatius 19-12 in the first round of the Division I state playoffs last week.

"Not a whole lot," he said. "But we were delayed at the hotel and we were getting all kinds of updates from the person who just walked into this room, which is Ted, and he kind of let me have it a little bit. But you ask him more about it."

Ginn tried to downplay any good-natured trash talk that might have taken place between him and Gonzalez.

"Well, not too much," Ginn said. "I just told him … we kept each other up on the score and that's about it."

But Ginn wasn't tempted to lay it on a little thicker and really give Gonzalez a hard time?

"You know, right now we're like 2-1, the series was 1-1, then it went 2-1, so I just told him we've got the upper hand on him now," Ginn said.

Ginn also addressed his toe injury.

"It's coming along. It's much better," he said. "Not that much pain. Things are coming along slowly, but it's cool."

When asked if he thinks it affected his speed or his overall play at Illinois last week, Ginn said: "No, not really. Just something that you've got to block out and play hard. I don't know. You can tell better than I can."

Ginn has 49 receptions for 637 yards (13 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns on the season. He will likely leave school early and will be a first-round NFL draft pick, but he's not saying much about it at this time.

"Right now, I don't want to say it's too early, but we'll see how the rest of the year goes and just talk it over with my parents and things like that and just go from there," he said.

Ginn is not a player that campaigns for more balls to be thrown his way. Even when he has single coverage and is getting frustrated with the offense, he tries not to say anything.

"You know, I'm a guy that keeps my mouth shut," he said. "I just play the play man and I play the season. I just go out and do things that I'm supposed to do for my team and try to keep all the bitching and complaining out."

After a pro career, Ginn could envision himself becoming a football coach one day just like his father, Ted Ginn Sr.

"I mean, yeah," he said. "I'm in love with the game and I have that fire that arouses me when football is around, no matter what level it is. Watching the high school game, I still call ‘Pops' and say, ‘You should have did it like this and like that,' and sometimes he takes my advice. With me being on a higher level and seeing different coverages as a receiver, it can really help me help him and make his situation better. In the future, it might be something that I would like to do.

"It's about kids and helping kids grow up in life. Everybody wasn't fortunate enough to have a great father figure, or a great mother figure. A kid comes to football and it gives him that drive that every kid might need. So, you do what you can to help them out and keep pushing forward."

‘Jim' is on vacation

After an Ohio State player wins the "Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week" award, he is called "Jim" by his teammates for the remainder of the week. It's just a way for the big guys to have a little extra fun in between banging heads with other 300-pound men.

But practice has been anything but fun this week for guys like center Doug Datish. For the first time this year, no one received offensive lineman of the week, or offensive player of the week.

"It was deserved," Datish said. "Nobody deserved to be offensive lineman of the week. Nobody deserved to be offensive player of the week. Everybody deserves to share equal parts of the blame. It's just reality."

The Buckeyes, ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring offense (34 points per game) and No. 2 behind Purdue in total offense (398.9 yards per game) hope to get back to their dominating ways against Northwestern this week. Datish discussed the Wildcats' youthful defense.

"I've studied them pretty good the last couple of days," he said. "I think they're tough and they've gotten a lot better over the year. It's kind of amazing the transformation. They do have young guys out there, but at this time of the season, no one in the country is really young anymore. They've gotten a lot better and they have some solid schemes that they're happy with and they're going to play hard."

Datish is one of 15 fifth-year seniors that were on the roster for Ohio State's 2002 national championship. He discussed if there is still some carry-over from that 14-0 year and whether it has helped the '06 squad.

"I think the benefit is all for the coaches because we've got some guys that have bad hearts and are sick and we don't need to give them the heart attacks like those guys did in 2002. It's not good for their health," Datish said. "But also, we see what type of heart that team played with too, the guys that were here. We know how close things can go and we can use that experience to help this team. They always found ways to win.

"I think there's a carry-over from the coaches and on down to the seniors and the leaders of this team. We've had great guys here before that showed us not to panic and that's one of the credits to our team is that we don't panic when stuff like that happens."

Left tackle Alex Boone is out again this week with a knee injury. Boone is expected to return for the Michigan game and Datish talked about Boone's role in the offense and how much he is missed.

"He's a good player," Datish said. "He's the left tackle and that's probably the premier position on the offensive line. He's done a tremendous job for us this year and we're looking forward to getting him back.

"We've rotated enough guys in on the offensive line this year that I don't think it's a huge factor, but in the same sense, offensive line is a cohesion thing and if you take any part out of there it messes up the cohesion a little bit. But we have enough good players here to fill in and do a good job for us."

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