OSU Building Depth At Running Back Spot

Erik Haw

One of the positives out of Saturday's jersey scrimmage at Ohio State was the emergence of running backs Erik Haw, Chris Wells and Maurice Wells. Haw and Chris Wells each approached the 100-yard mark, while Maurice Wells showed he is capable of getting some tough yards inside. Click here for more.

In some respects, Antonio Pittman flew solo as the tailback at Ohio State last year.

Pittman (5-11, 195) stepped into the starting role as a sophomore and had a dynamic year, finishing with 1,331 yards and seven touchdowns on 243 carries (5.5-yard average per carry).

After Pittman, the next running back on OSU's carries list was true freshman Maurice Wells, who had 61 carries for 199 yards (3.3 average) and one touchdown. Erik Haw, a redshirt freshman, had 14 carries for 61 yards (4.4 average) and one touchdown.

Pittman is missing OSU's spring practice because of a hamstring injury. But that has only opened the door for Haw, Maurice Wells and early enrolling freshman Chris Wells to show what they can do this spring.

On Saturday, all three of those backs got a great deal of work in OSU's jersey scrimmage. There was reason for optimism with all three of them. Here were some of the highlights:

* Maurice Wells (5-10, 190) started at tailback. The knock on Wells last year was his inability to get tough yards between the tackles. But on Saturday, he did a much stronger job of carrying the ball in traffic, breaking tackles and finding running lanes where he could use his speed. He ended up with 52 yards on 13 carries (4.0 average).

* Haw (6-1, 212) brings a blend of power and speed. That was on display on a dazzling 71-yard touchdown run Saturday as he took a toss left, cut inside and then darted outside and down the left sideline for the score. He ended up with 96 yards on 14 carries (6.9 average).

* Chris Wells (6-1, 225) arrived amid much fanfare as the nation's No. 1 overall high school prospect and running back. Fresh off a 2,000-yard season at Akron Garfield High School, Wells has wasted no time in making an impression this spring. He showed he could get tough yardage inside and also let his speed take over on a nifty 20-yard run during the scrimmage. He ended up with 92 yards on 19 carries (4.8 average). The one blemish he had was a fumble after a pass reception early in the scrimmage.

Afterwards, OSU coach Jim Tressel was glad to see the running backs answer the challenge.

"I thought the running backs ran hard," Tressel said. "I think we're going to have more depth at running back than we've had in a while, which is good. We didn't have a flawless day in the fumble department, which we must do. But I thought they did a nice job and ran patient and did some cutback things. They did good with their blitz pickup and their routes.

"Mo Wells is a year older. Chris Wells, we all know, is very good. He's got a lot of ability. And Erik Haw seems to be growing. We'd like to think Antonio Pittman will keep getting better and better."

Tressel likes what he has seen of Chris Wells after two weeks.

"He's a very patient runner," Tressel said. "For a young guy, I was very impressed with his patience. He waited for things to develop. He's got a ways to go in the pass game. We've thrown a million things at him and I think he's doing fine with that."

Tressel also discussed Haw's ability and progress.

"I think Erik is getting better. He's got speed. I think he's gaining confidence. The competition is huge. It's good to see him get better."

Haw was excited to break off a long touchdown run.

"Ever since growing up, since Little League, I wanted to be the one to break away and go 80 yards or 99 yards and showcase my speed to where the crowd is going, ‘Ooh, he's running,' " Haw said. "It's just me doing what I've got to do. I love the game and I'm just going to keep on playing as long as I can."

Haw believes there will be room for several running backs in the rotation in 2006.

"Not taking anything away from Pitt – he did a tremendous job last season with the running game – he's got to get back because we need everybody," he said. "Everybody is a big piece of the puzzle. I'm just going to do the best I can and sneak into the mix. Hopefully, the coaches will recognize my hard work and my dedication.

"Pitt will be back. We've got a good running back corps. We'll see what happens.

"With the depth we have at running back, there is no telling what can happen. We have four good running backs who were All-Americans in high school. That's definitely a good corps."



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