Clarett Fumbles, Fumes On Television

By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Maurice Clarett has played like a man in Ohio State's backfield, yet there are still times when he's just another 18-year-old kid a long way from home.

Clarett (pictured, right) clashed with Ohio State running backs coach Tim Spencer on the sidelines Saturday during the fifth-ranked Buckeyes' 27-16 victory at Northwestern.

Television cameras caught the two yelling at each other. Clarett could also be seen exchanging words with a teammate another time. A close-up showed tears rolling down his cheeks after he was taken out after losing two early fumbles.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday there would be no penalties against Clarett for his emotional outbursts. The Buckeyes host San Jose State on Saturday and Clarett, of Warren, is expected to be in the starting lineup.

"They're both pretty competitive folks," Tressel said of Clarett and Spencer, a former standout running back himself at Ohio State who went on to play pro football for seven years.

He said Spencer "can be pretty forceful" and that the confrontation came in the heat of the moment in a close game. Tressel said part of the problem was that the argument was televised, therefore amplifying what is a common occurrence on most teams -- a sideline disagreement.

"That's a reality that a guy like Maurice Clarett, who all of a sudden has had a lot of notoriety and so forth, it's an awareness thing that the camera's going to follow you when you're not even part of what is happening," Tressel said. "That's the way that it works."

Clarett rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries, but also lost a third fumble late in the game.

Tressel said the turnovers were not what Spencer and Clarett were hollering about.

"Interestingly enough, it had nothing to do with the fumbles," he said. "Tim was trying to get him to move back (from the sideline) because the officials were yelling at us."

Clarett -- a blip on the radar screen at tailback last spring -- has become the No. 1 offensive weapon for the Buckeyes. He has totaled 715 yards rushing and his average of 143 yards a game is fifth in the country. He already has 12 touchdowns, among the highest totals ever for an Ohio State freshman, with seven regular-season games remaining.

Clarett has accounted for one-third of the Buckeyes' points and almost half of their 26 touchdowns.

Is too much being put on Clarett's shoulders too soon?

"Maybe he has too much pressure, but I think he's the kind of guy who can handle it," free safety and captain Donnie Nickey said. "He's intelligent. He knows what he's got to do. He's not the kind of guy who can break from it."

Another Ohio State captain, strong safety Michael Doss, said the entire situation was blown out of proportion.

"A lot of people are really trying to make something out of nothing right now," he said. "I really don't appreciate that, being a player and being inside this family and knowing what goes on."

Quarterback Craig Krenzel said discussions -- sometimes loud ones -- frequently take place on the field and the sidelines. He said the primary concern regarding Clarett was the fumbles, not the fuming.

"It's something he hasn't done much this year and it's something he can't do any more this year. He knows that," Krenzel said. "He's done a great job of securing the ball for us this year, so it was a little bit of a surprise. At the same time, things like that can happen."

Krenzel said he wasn't the type of person to yell at a coach -- even though Tressel joked that Krenzel frequently yelled at him. He said sometimes emotions rule the moment.

"It happens more than people think, more than people see. Obviously, it's not always captured on camera," he said. "There's nobody who wants to win more than the guys who are playing. The guys who are next in terms of wanting to win that much are the coaches. You put them in a hostile environment like a game situation, throw in a couple of mistakes and -- just depending on the type of people -- words are exchanged."

Tressel said he wasn't worried nearly as much about the harsh words between player and coach as he was about Clarett's three lost fumbles.

"We have to make sure there isn't any more of that," he said.

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