With Maurice Clarett possibly challenging the NFL's early-entry rule, something occurred to me: it's surprising that no other player has already attempted to do it.
Of all the players that have come to college majoring in NFL Studies, you would think one would have tried to challenge the rule. But, as it stands, Clarett is set to be the Curt Flood of college football.
If he does go through with it, I don't think he will "win" per se. My guess is that Clarett would eventually win the case, but it would probably be after the 2004 draft, since the NFL would try and drag it out. So, either way, he won't be eligible for the draft until '05.
Now, why doesn't the NFL want to include 18-20 year olds? There are a few reasons.
One, players that age are not physically or mentally ready for the league. The NFL does not want to head down NBA Lane where there are far too many "high-ceiling" players that are clearly not ready for the challenges of pro ball. The NFL does not want a situation where its teams feel like they have to draft talented freshmen and sophomores – even if they are not ready – in order to beat the other guy to the punch. That is part of the problem in the NBA. Teams started drafting high school players, not out of need, but out of fear. You didn't want to be the guy that passed on player X that wound up being a star.
Two, the NFL loves having a free minor league. College football comes equipped with AAA ball (Division I), AA (I-AA), A (II) and even rookie ball (III). If the NFL decided to open up the doors for everyone, regardless of age, it would probably also be forced to double the money it pumps into NFL Europe. The league would have to expand, in order to make room for some of the undrafted players that left college early. A more likely scenario would see the elimination of NFL Europe and the creation of 16-team minor league played in the states. But the NFL would much rather keep things the way they are and use the NCAA as a feeder system. And good for them. There is nothing wrong with a private business having regulations. The rule might get shot down in court due to anti-trust laws, but hopefully Clarett decided not to take it that far.
A while ago, Robert Smith and Jim Brown were guests on ESPN's Outside the Lines and the topic was Barry Sanders. The two former running backs – who like Sanders got out of pro ball early rather than late – were going back and forth with various arguments, but nothing too heated. However, towards the end of the show, the host asked Smith who the best running back of all time was. He responded something to the effect of, "Barry Sanders, no doubt about it."
It was obvious that the answer bothered Brown, who is not shy in his belief that he is the greatest. The two men didn't say anything else, but throughout the interview it was obvious that they did not like each other.
Then, earlier this week, Smith appeared on Pardon the Interruption to talk about Clarett. He made the statement that anyone who takes advice from Brown is making a big mistake. Pretty serious words.
Rumor has it that the feud started years ago when Brown criticized Smith for not taking a bigger stand on "social issues."
I would like to commend Lloyd Carr for taking such a hard-line stance in the Marlin Jackson situation.
FLORIDA COPIES OSU
Bet you thought you would never see the day the Florida Gators copied anything out of Ohio State's offensive playbook. But that is exactly what happened in the Gators' loss to Miami two weeks ago. Seeing the film from the Fiesta Bowl, Florida called several QB draws against the Hurricanes. And just like Jan. 3, it worked.
Now, if the Buckeyes can just steal some of Florida's innovative plays from Steve Spurrier's days, we'll be in business.
Will the Clarett situation have a negative effect on recruiting? I don't think it will, but there are some concerns to examine. Namely, what if Jim Tressel is a little more hesitant to go after "risky" players now?
It has been said that Andy Geiger has a "one borderline player per year" rule, but what if that is cut to zero? Or what if Tressel decides himself to never go after anyone with legal or academic issues?
A big part of successful recruiting is taking chances on a few players. Troy Smith was considered risky coming out of high school, but he has proven to be a good student. Jamario O'Neal might be looked at as risky now, but word is he is a good kid who made one stupid mistake.
Heck, even Clarett wasn't that "risky" coming out of high school. He was a good student, didn't have any legal issues, but there were some rumblings about a "me first" attitude. That's no different than most star running backs out there.
Hopefully the Bucks don't stop recruiting everyone that shows a little bit of an attitude, in fear of another Clarett mess. They of course want to recruit as many good kids as possible, but I would like to think that Tressel could mold nearly anyone once they arrived in Columbus, no matter their personality. Granted, that didn't work with Clarett, but he is probably an isolated case. Here's hoping the fallout from his situation doesn't change the Buckeyes' recruiting strategy.
It still amazes me that Jenkins is likely going to break the OSU career receiving yardage record, despite playing on poor passing teams in 2001-02.
0.3 YARDS AND A CLOUD OF DUST
OK, you are sick of hearing about it, but let's take a look at why the running game has struggled.
First, there is no denying that the tailback situation is not on the same level without Clarett. Let's just get that out of the way.
Second, the offensive line has played poorly. Tackles Shane Olivea and Rob Sims are potentially two of the best in the Big Ten, but they haven't played like it thus far. However, I expect both of them will get stronger has the year progresses and will wind up having good seasons. Just how good is the question. They need to dominate to get this running game going and they both have the potential to do so.
The team obviously misses Alex Stepanovich (sprained ankle), who will return either next week against Northwestern or in three weeks against Wisconsin. When healthy, he is probably the best player on the line.
There is no hiding that the team misses Ivan Douglas. He has all the physical skills and this was probably going to be the year the mental side of the game clicked for him as well.
Whatever is wrong with the line, it's obviously Jim Bollman's job to solve it. Bollman is offensive coordinator in title only – he doesn't call the plays – so he is basically directing most of his attention to the O-line. There is no excuse for the line to be playing this bad, especially with a veteran cast and supposedly one of the best line coaches in the country.
Third, fullback Branden Joe (torn pectoral) has been a huge loss. He is hoping to be back for Wisconsin and it would give the running game a nice boost. Coming into the season, several coaches and players mentioned that Joe had a great offseason and was on the verge of a breakout year. Hopefully he shows no ill effects when he does return.
Is starting to play like an All-American. Tressel said his performance in the NC State game was the best he's played at OSU. If Scott continues to get pressure up the middle – along with Tim Anderson – Will Smith and Simon Fraser are going to be cleaning up a lot of messes on the outside. You just can't say enough good things about the D-line. Jim Heacock must pinch himself everyday.
9-OF-17 WINS DURING STREAK…
Have come by less than 10 points.
It's a slap in the face to NC State that OSU dropped in the polls this week. NC State is a very good football team and the Bucks should not have dropped, even after a close escape at home.
You know, the same Notre Dame team that was a grossly overrated (No. 14) by the voters prior to last week's drubbing against Michigan. Well, not exactly the same ND team. At least the Irish had an offensive line last year. This year, they are just a very, very bad team.
PASSING GAME CLICKS IN OT
The Buckeye offense was an absolute machine in overtime last week. You wonder why you don't see that all the time. Passes to tight ends; quick passes to receivers; working out of the shotgun. Just generally being aggressive. But like Tressel said, it helps to start at the opponent's 25.
In Ohio State's three overtime games, it has scored touchdowns on all six possessions. That's one against Illinois, two against Miami and three against NC State.
ZWICK OVER SMITH
Tressel said on his weekly call-in show that Justin Zwick would be the backup quarterback if Scott McMullen starts in place of the injured Craig Krenzel this week. Zwick and Troy Smith had been running neck-in-neck, but Zwick seems to be in line to be the starter in 2004.
This is the last week of practice for grayshirt freshman quarterback Todd Boeckman. What a valuable experience it has been for him to be with the team during camp and the first four weeks of the season. Boeckman, who will re-join the team in the spring, is planning on redshirting next year. Therefore, he won't be a senior until the 2008 season.
OHIO FLAVOR ON B-BALL BUCKS
For the first time in the Jim O'Brien era, we can say that there is a serious Ohio flavor on the basketball team.
Eight of the 13 players on the roster are from the Buckeye State: Terence Dials, Ivan Harris, JJ Sullinger, Tony Stockman, Matt Sylvester, Matt Marinchick, Shaun Smith, Nick Dials. On the way next year are arguably the top two recruits in Ohio: Matt Terwilliger and Jamar Butler.
While we're on the topic of hoops, it will be interesting to see what starting five OB runs out there this year. In my opinion, the top five players on the team are, in no particular order: Velimir Radinovic, T. Dials, Sullinger, Stockman and Sylvester. But chances are not good they will be the starters. Brandon Fuss-Cheatham could work his way in the lineup (if his offseason regiment worked) and bruiser Shun Jenkins will also be given a long look.