By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Junior fullback Jesse Kline quit the Ohio State team on Wednesday due to nagging injuries, three days before he was supposed to start his first game for the Buckeyes.
Kline, whose entire collegiate career has been marked by back and shoulder injuries, skipped Ohio State's practice on Tuesday after telling head coach Jim Tressel he didn't think he could help the team because of his health problems.
"I know this is a difficult decision for him," Tressel said after meeting with Kline on Wednesday morning. "We all just wish him the best."
Kline had never started a game at Ohio State and had only carried the ball twice in his three previous years, counting a redshirt season, that he was with the team. He was scheduled to start at fullback on Saturday when the Buckeyes take on Texas Tech in the Pigskin Classic at Ohio Stadium.
Tressel said Kline indicated to him that because of medical reasons he would no longer be a part of the team. Kline missed spring practice because of a back injury and has also suffered a shoulder injury during his Ohio State career.
"He's concerned that perhaps healthwise he's not where he needs to be. He's a real serious guy about being able to do what the team needs," Tressel said. "I think he's struggling with it right now."
Kline's decision was the latest blow to a team that has lost several key players in recent weeks.
During his weekly media luncheon Tuesday, Tressel said starting flanker Chris Vance would not be available for Saturday's season-opener because of an unspecified violation of team policy. He also said freshman defensive lineman Quinn Pitcock would not be available to play. Pitcock was arrested for underage drinking over the weekend.
Another Ohio State fullback, Branden Joe, was arrested and charged with drunken driving after police found him asleep in a car about 3:45 a.m. on a highway ramp near campus. He is currently suspended from the team.
Vance, a senior, caught 34 passes for 605 yards and four touchdowns a year ago after transferring from Fort Scott Community College. He was Ohio State's second-leading receiver, starting eight of the Buckeyes' 12 games.
Kline was redshirted as a freshman after a sterling career at Upper Arlington High School where he rushed for 2,315 yards and scored 33 touchdowns as a senior. He carried twice for five yards during the 2000 season and played in 12 games last year but did not carry the ball.
Freshman running back Maurice Clarett -- who called Kline one of his best friends on the team -- said after Tuesday's practice he was angry about Kline's decision to leave the team. Kline was to start in the same backfield with Clarett on Saturday.
"He was the kind of person who held my hand basically through the whole process," Clarett said. "Jesse basically told me everything -- which way to go, which plays to run. He took the time off to help me out."
Tressel said Brandon Schnittker, a freshman, will take Kline's spot. Jack Tucker, a fifth-year senior, will be the backup.
Tressel declined to discuss Vance in particular.
"You're always troubled when things aren't perfect. Obviously, things aren't perfect. It's something you work on constantly," he said.
Tressel did not say how long Vance would be unavailable and declined to refer to Vance's absence as a suspension.
"It's a team policy situation and I'd rather not discuss that with folks outside the team," Tressel said.
Vance will be replaced by Chris Gamble, who will make his first career start.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)