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April 5, 2006

Ginn shows dramatic improvement

COLUMBUS, Ohio - As good as Ted Ginn Jr. has been in his first two years at Ohio State, his teammates believe the best is yet to come.

''Not only is it possible, in my opinion he's going to go past the expectations,'' fellow Buckeyes wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez said Tuesday, four days into Ohio State's spring practice schedule. ''He's playing so well right now. Teddy, he's going to be better than anybody thinks.''

Ginn has produced a lot of eye-popping highlights in two seasons, but was still the Buckeyes' second-best receiver behind Santonio Holmes. Now that Holmes has given up his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft, Ginn is being looked at as the go-to guy.

''There's a major difference in his receiver play,'' receivers coach Darrell Hazell said. ''He's understanding things a whole lot better. I think he was kind of sitting in the wings a little bit last year. Now he's stepped out and he's making a lot of plays.''

Ginn was so spectacular as a freshman, his sophomore season was viewed as a something of a disappointment. He had 51 catches for 803 yards and scored seven TDs, including one kickoff return and one punt return for a score; good but not quite as spectacular as his freshman season when his four punt return touchdowns set Ohio State and Big Ten records.

As last season progressed, quarterback Troy Smith looked for Ginn more often on important pass plays.

''I just look at it as a guy out there playing receiver,'' said Ginn, who's added five pounds and now is 6-foot and 180. ''I can be a possession (receiver), I can be a big-play (receiver). It really doesn't matter.''

Now Ginn is being mentioned as one of the early front-runners for the Heisman Trophy. He doesn't back away from that talk.

''It'd be a great honor to win that award,'' he said. ''But I'm not going to set my whole season on the Heisman. I'm going to set my whole season on playing hard ... and getting better every game.''

With Holmes gone, more will be expected of Ginn. Holmes was Smith's primary target, catching 53 passes for 977 yards (2.7 yards more per catch than Ginn) with 11 touchdowns.

Hazell believes that Ginn accepts the added responsibility. He said Ginn is asking more questions and showing more leadership.

''I just feel more relaxed, more calm,'' Ginn said.

His teammates say that those who don't see Ginn in action until the Buckeyes' Sept. 2 opener against Northern Illinois won't recognize the new Ginn.

''I guess people won't see it until we get the season started, but I'm telling you: Be ready,'' Gonzalez said. ''Be ready. He's going to have a heck of a year.''

For more coverage of the Ohio State Buckeyes, check out BuckeyeSports.com.


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