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Healthy Ezekiel Elliott focused on national title, not Heisman

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- All Ezekiel Elliott needed was one healthy wrist to help raise a championship trophy.

The Ohio State running back has two of them now, which might come in handy since the Heisman Trophy is a little bit heavier.

Elliott has insisted that hoisting the latter isn’t his top priority, and the fact he actually can use both hands to carry the football this fall is really only valuable as much as it would help the Buckeyes defend the crown they won a year ago thanks in part to his epic production in the postseason. But he’s at least aware of the preseason hype that has installed him as a frontrunner for the most prestigious individual honor in the game, even while doing his best to ignore it and keep his focus on what he can provide to Ohio State collectively.

“I mean, you see [the projections] on Twitter and stuff,” Elliott said. “But none of that means anything until the season comes around, you strap up and get on the field.

“Honestly, I don’t really care. ... My goal is to win another national championship, so I mean, if the Heisman comes, it comes. But the national championship is more important.”

Elliott was instrumental in claiming one last season, piling up nearly 700 yards during a rampage through Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in the postseason despite continuing to play one-handed in the Ohio State backfield.

After having a second surgery on his wrist after the season ended, Elliott described himself as being “pretty handicapped” as a sophomore since he couldn’t carry the ball in his left hand or use it to punch at defenders. Elliott suggested he still wasn’t quite completely healed, but he’s back to being able to bench press, is regaining flexibility and hasn’t had to wear a cast in months.

“My wrist is doing very well,” Elliott said. “We’re getting there. Working on the flexibility, but definitely no pain in it anymore, just a little bit of stiffness.

“I will definitely be ready full go for the season.”

It’s the combination of that clean bill of health in time for the opener and what Elliott was able to do without it last year that has raised expectations for him heading into his second season as the featured back in Ohio State’s high-powered offense, a position that comes with enough scrutiny on its own even without a Heisman conversation swirling around him.

In some respects, Elliott might actually have some of the pressure reduced by the presence of three more Heisman candidates sharing the locker room with him. And Ohio State’s heated three-man race for the quarterback job among Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett will no doubt dominate the spotlight throughout training camp and perhaps into the early part of the season.

But either way, none of that has changed Elliott’s preparation for the season -- and his top priority remains the same as well.

“You know, just kind of think of it as part of the vision, something you dream about when you’re a kid,” Elliott said. “I mean, I’ve worked for it, we’ve worked for it, my teammates are a big part of where I am right now, the slobs [on the offensive line] are definitely the biggest part.

“Just have to thank those guys and keep working.”

Only this time, Elliott is digging in with both hands.