Buckeyes Pull In 25 Signatures On First Signing Day

By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer

Even one of the crown jewels of Ohio State's 2002 recruiting class doesn't think much of those who say the Buckeyes pulled in one of the top groups of signees in the country on Wednesday.

"Those ratings are based on potential," said Ohio's Mr. Football last season, Maurice Clarett of Warren Harding. "The ratings don't mean too much because I've seen people that had high ratings and they fell off and I've seen people walk on and make an impact. I don't think the ratings have too much to do with anything. They're just for the public and the media to hype people."

Clarett, a bruising 6-foot, 230-pound running back, was one of 25 names received on the first day for the signing of national letters of intent. He carried 139 times for 1,369 yards and 22 touchdowns in the 2001 regular season. He also had 14 catches for 253 yards and three touchdowns, returned four punts for touchdowns and had another on a kickoff return.

Coach Jim Tressel, welcoming his second recruiting class, said he was excited by the presence of Clarett and 17 other Ohioans on his list.

"It all fell into place," said Tressel, whose first Ohio State team went 7-5 a year ago. "Our coaches did a good job of recruiting the state of Ohio and of identifying the type of young men we want to have here."

Clarett is already enrolled at Ohio State and has spent the past few weeks just waiting to see who his new teammates would be. He said he is ready to compete for the job vacated by the graduated Jonathan Wells.

"It's a friendly competition," he said of the battle between he and Lydell Ross, Maurice Hall and others for playing time. "I just came down here like everybody else to compete for a starting position. That's everyone's intention."

Ohio State missed out on wide receiver Richard Washington of Fort Myers, Fla., who had verbally committed to the Buckeyes but backed out at the last minute and signed with North Carolina State.

Among the other high-profile recruits locked up by the Buckeyes were linebacker Mike D'Andrea of Avon Lake, linebacker Stan White Jr. -- son of the Ohio State All-American, and last-minute addition Derek Morris, a 6-6, 350-pound offensive lineman from Huntersville, N.C.

"He's made it very difficult, even more so than Mack Brown in Texas, to come into the state of Ohio and pull out an elite name," Allen Wallace of Laguna Beach, Calif.-based SuperPrep Magazine said of Tressel. "He instilled the commitment to excellence into the Buckeyes that some thought was missing."

Perhaps the most acclaimed is quarterback Justin Zwick of Massillon Washington. Many Ohio State fans have already embraced the 6-4, 210-pound passer as an immediate starter -- if not a future Heisman winner.

Tressel smiled at all the talk about Zwick and said he was overjoyed that people were talking about the recruits and the program.

"In some towns they don't even know who the quarterback is," Tressel said.

He said of Zwick, "He's a big, strong guy with an excellent ability to move. He'll come in and do his best."

Elsewhere around Ohio, Tressel's former school, Youngstown State, announced it had signed 16 incoming freshmen and three transfers. Miami of Ohio got signatures from 13 recruits including twin brothers John (an outside linebacker) and Ryan Busing (a quarterback), from Alpharetta, Ga.

Mid-American Conference champion Toledo picked up 23 signees including Toledo St. Francis running back Rodney Gamby, one of the heroes of the Division II state championship team.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)