The gifted athlete found the end zone every 7.3 times he touched the ball last year.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Midway through the 2004 season, Ted Ginn Jr. became a household name. At almost the same time, Ohio State became a better football team.
The electric freshman went on to match the NCAA record of four punt-return touchdowns in a season while helping the Buckeyes make a U-turn after splitting their first six games.
Now no one -- least of all Ginn himself -- is surprised that Ginn's name is popping up among the early front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy this fall.
"I came out and I showcased some things," he said of his rookie exploits. "I'd rather be in that [Heisman] race, you know. As far as me getting honors, I've got to do the right things off the field and on the field."
Ginn was recruited as a defensive back but saw action only on special teams and offense. He finished with 25 catches for 359 yards and two touchdowns, ran the ball 13 times for 113 yards and two scores, and averaged 25.6 yards on his 15 punt returns.
Every 7.3 times he touched the ball, he scored a touchdown.
From head coach Jim Tressel all the way down to those not exactly sure what the heck a Buckeye is know that Ohio State needs to get the ball in Ginn's hands more often.
So, Ted, are the coaches finding ways to do that?
"I'm going to keep that a secret," Ginn said slyly, outrunning the question like so many of the potential tacklers he left grabbing for air.
Looking for options
Tressel's offensive staff visited several campuses during the offseason, ostensibly to find ways to include Ginn in more plays. It's an ongoing process. After all, they had Ginn stationed at quarterback for several plays during the victory in December's Alamo Bowl.
With fellow speedster Santonio Holmes also a threat to break a long one at any time, defenses have no choice but to pay special attention to each.
"Teddy's got extraordinary physical abilities," Tressel said as the team continued spring practices. "I'd like him to touch it a lot. I'd like Santonio to touch it a lot. ... You'd better go into the game thinking that Teddy and Santonio have a chance to make big plays for you."
Ginn was a third-team All-American as a freshman, despite seeing only occasional action for the first half of the season. That's what has Ohio State fans and coaches so fired up -- if he could put up numbers like that in handful of games, what will he be like with a full season of plays designed to find him room to run?
This year, in addition to catching the ball, running it on reverses and being the main man on punt returns, he'll return kickoffs.
He comes into this season with a better understanding of the game and his place in it.
"I learned about the game. I know how the game goes now, how to receive punts and things like that," Ginn said, reflecting on the lessons he gained from his first year. "It's just confidence."
He caught a tipped pass and returned it 59 yards for the opening score in a 30-7 win over Indiana in Game 7 that ended a three-game losing skid to start Big Ten play.
A week later, he had a 67-yard punt return in a 21-10 victory against Penn State, then followed that with a 17-yard run and a 60-yard punt return for scores in a 32-19 win over Michigan State.
His 82-yard punt return -- which tied the NCAA mark -- gave the Buckeyes some breathing room in what would become a 37-21 win over No. 7 Michigan in the regular-season finale.
Ginn remains unimpressed by his 2004 accomplishments.
"Last year's last year. Now it's a new year," he said. "You have to come out and showcase yourself again."
Tressel said he's not worried that Ginn will let all the acclaim go to his head.
"You have to handle adversity; handling success is harder. We talk about that a lot. We're challenging him all the time with new things," Tressel said. "I don't think it's his nature to sit back. I expect him to compete all the time."
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