Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Ted Ginn Saga

In what has become a pressing point of discussion over the past few weeks, I have become compelled to discuss the growing issue of Ted Ginn's season not being as "exciting" this season as before. There are multiple factors that are the reasons for this: His changed role on the team, a dazzling freshman season, which led to unreasonable expectations in his second season, and what seems to be that he is just trying too hard out there to impress everyone.

Year 1 Ted Ginn burst onto the scene as a highly touted freshman, and was used offensively as a "gimmick back" (Being used out of the backfield, trick plays, etc). He even became a notoriety as such a player that he had a formation named after him, the "Shotginn." His dazzling speed and agility left fans and announcers alike speechless. If you need evidence (and you shouldn't), look no further than his first ever touchdown as a Buckeye. He caught a tipped 5 yard pass, broke three tackles, and just outran another three would-be tacklers on his way to a 60 yard touchdown. Coming into this season, Teddy had only two touchdowns scored under 20 yards, a trick play against Michigan State in 2004, and a play in which he lined up at quarterback and snuck the ball in against Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl that same year.

Year 2 After a stellar final two games of the 2004 season, Ginn entered his sophomore season, a season in which his expectations were through the roof. Everyone was expecting the unexpectable out of Ginn all season long, and those plays were few and far between. He had a couple of returns called back on phantom flags, but even those don't make up for his season long disappointment. Statistically, he was pretty good (803 receiving yards), but the hard to impress Buckeye fans were expecting quadruple digits. The beginning of the season was incredibly disappointing for Ginn and the fans. Despite getting featured on a Sports Illustrated cover after week 1, Ginn totally disappeared in the biggest game of the season against Texas, and he followed that performance with poor games against SDSU, Iowa, and PSU. Watching him struggle out there and his general body language gave me the impression that this kid was a prima donna. His blocking was lackadaisical at best, he seemed almost offended at the fact that the ball wasn't getting thrown his way enough, and it showed in his performance. His route running was downright awful, and he just didn't seem focused.

But maybe a sophomore slump was the best thing that could have happened to Ginn.

Year 3 The months, weeks, and days leading up to the 2006 season was arguably filled with more anticipation and hype than any other season for any team I've been a fan of. The expectations were once again being set an unrealistic bar for Jim, Troy, the new defense, and of course, Ted. After an all-around electric Fiesta Bowl performance against Notre Dame, fans were once again looking for Ted to set the world on fire. Heisman watch-lists had him just behind the big 3 of Smith, Quinn, and Peterson. The reasoning behind expecting a heisman winner out of an 803-yard receiver over guys having more spectacular seasons (Manningham), or players with more talent as a receiver (Jarret) still beats me. Maybe it was just a Michael Jordan effect on college football. You know how everyone is looking for the next MJ? Well maybe college fans were looking for the next Reggie Bush, and Ted Ginn was just the easiest target for fans to point out.

The difference between '05 and '06, however, was that '05 must have been a serious reality check for Ginn. Santonio Holmes was gone, and it was now up to Ginn (in the eyes of most fans), to fill the void. He seemed to learn a serious lesson from last season, and has since become a much harder worker. He put on weight, became a finely-tuned route runner, and his newfound hands are making people think "Santonio Who?" His progress even led teammate Anthony Gonzalez and WR Coach Darrell Hazell to sing his praises highly back in the spring.

"He's like a totally different player," said Hazell. "He's always been fast, but now he runs good routes, reads defenses, does all the little things that make a good receiver. Those things, combined with his speed, could turn him into a great receiver next fall if he continues to work at it and improve," said Hazell.

"Teddy is playing extremely well. He really is. It's the best I've seen him play," added fellow wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez

The '06 season began right where the '05 one left off. Ginn scored two first quarter touchdowns against Northern Illinois, and then did something he couldn't do last year: Be a factor against Texas. The second play from scrimmage, Ginn took a pass over the middle, and broke it out for a 46 yard gain. He then brought the back-breaker in the closing seconds of the second quarter when he caught a 29 yard pass over his shoulder past an outstretched Aaron Ross to put the Buckeyes up 14-7 just as the first half ended. His threat of breaking one big at any given time has forced defenses to focus too much on Ginn and not enough on Gonzalez, who has flourished in his role as the "overlooked one."

One area of concern around Ginn's game this season, though, is in his return game (who would've thunk it, right?). This could be due to one of many factors, such as his increased role in the offense or his weight gain from his freshman season, but the obvious reason seems to be that he is simply trying too hard to break the big one. He's playing like that big hitter who is going through a slump, and is trying to break out of that slump by swinging for the fences on every pitch. What Ginn really needs to do, is just relax, and take things in small chunks. Then, things will begin to slow down for Ginn, and he will break that big one. The guy is overdue. Going back to last season, he's 0-23 on returns, with the only big one that comes to mind being against Illinois last season. If he doesn't come through soon, it may be time to groom "Ted Ginn III," Ray Small, to start returning kicks. The kid is every bit as fast (if not faster) than Ginn was as a freshman, and just as talented.

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