Replacing Ginn

Ohio State fans appreciated what Ted Ginn Jr. brought to the table while he was a Buckeye, but now that he is gone he has left some big shoes to fill. Find out what sort of impact Ginn left on his former teammates and how his presence is still being felt in Columbus.

He is far from being the only offensive weapon the Buckeyes have to replace this season, but Ted Ginn Jr.'s shoes might be the most difficult to fill.

With his game-changing speed and ability to stretch opposing defenses, Ginn was a player Ohio State's opponents had to take account for on every play of every game. Now a member of the Miami Dolphins, OSU wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell said most fans do not realize just how talented Ginn was.

Considering that he began the 2006 season as a candidate to win the Heisman Trophy and finished the year as the team's top wideout, those are big words from his position coach.

"I don't think a lot of people realize how exceptional he was after he caught the ball," Hazell said. "His get-up speed was unbelievable. If you don't cheat a second guy to him, it could be deadly because he can get over the top of you so fast. You've always got to get somebody help against a player of his magnitude."

The cupboard is not bare at wide receiver, however, despite also losing last season's No. 2 wideout, Anthony Gonzalez, to the NFL Draft as well. Junior wideout Brian Robiskie emerged as a deep threat during the 2006 season and finished as the team's No. 3 wideout. Sophomore Brian Hartline has proven himself a reliable target, and Ray Small – also an alumnus of Cleveland Glenville like Ginn – has been described by many on the team as the next Ginn.

Still, there is no clear-cut Ginn-type wideout on the roster – or on many other collegiate rosters, for that matter.

While Hazell said it is difficult to gameplan for having lost a player of Ginn's caliber, he said he is pleased with the progress of his position through fall camp so far.

Not only did Ginn pose a threat to opposing defensive backfields, but in doing so he helped to open up OSU's running attack.

"He kept a lot of defenses honest," junior tailback Maurice Wells said. "They wanted to keep their safeties back or Ted would run right by them, so it really helped as far as the running game."

Wells compared the impact Ginn had to that of former Georgia Tech wideout Calvin Johnson, also a first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. As Johnson was leading the ACC with 1,202 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, Yellow Jackets' tailback Tashard Choice also finished first in the ACC with 1,473 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

Ginn did not finish in the top 50 in the country in receiving yards, but that owes to the fact that he was far from the only offensive weapon for the Buckeyes. OSU starting tailback Antonio Pittman, while splitting carries with true freshman Chris Wells, finished 20th in the nation with 1,233 rushing yards.

On the flipside, however, having a strong run game also helped showcase Ginn's talents. Facing a third-and-short situation against Michigan in 2006, head coach Jim Tressel sent in Chris Wells for an apparent plunge up the middle to pick up the first down.

Instead, quarterback Troy Smith faked the handoff and heaved the ball deep, connecting with Ginn on a 39-yard touchdown pass to push the OSU lead to 21-7 in the second quarter.

According to OSU's Jamario O'Neal – one of the fastest players on the team – trying to stop Ginn is at least partially mental.

"You've got to have self-assurance or confidence that you can check him," O'Neal said. "If you don't have any confidence, you've lost.

"That's why I think he was running past most guys, because, ‘Oh dang, I'm about to go against Ted and he's fast, so I don't know if I can check him.' If you could line up and say, ‘OK, you're not going to get past me,' then I think you've got a good chance."

His talents on offense do not take into account what Ginn brought to OSU's return games, however. As the Big Ten's all-time leader in punt returns for touchdowns, he brought and extra edge to the Buckeyes' special-teams units that will be tough to match.

"He's a threat returning kicks, returning punts and he's good at wide receiver too," OSU sophomore safety Anderson Russell said. "He can change a game anytime. Those are some tough shoes to fill."

Finally, he has helped make some of the Buckeyes better as well. Junior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last season and emerged as one of the nation's top shutdown cornerbacks, said daily challenges against Ginn in practice helped to make him the player that he is now.

"If you go against the greatest every day it does nothing but make you better – or frustrated, either/or," he said with a laugh. "That's one thing that has helped me with my skills."

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