OSU Defense Talks Clarett, Boilermakers

Ohio State's defense is less than 24 hours away from the unenviable yearly task of trying to stop Purdue. Dave Biddle has a wrap-up of what some of OSU's key defensive players said during the week about Purdue as well as their thoughts on Maurice Clarett.

Ohio State has a tough game against Purdue Saturday, but the Buckeyes were forced to answer questions about Maurice Clarett all week.

"He was kind of a loner," cornerback Dustin Fox said of Clarett. "It's not like we didn't get along with him or anything like that. A lot of the guys just didn't talk to him. I don't know what he did in his spare time, just like he doesn't know what I do in my spare time."

One of Clarett's claims was that OSU's star players get handouts from boosters.

"To be honest with you, I have no idea what his little situation was like when he was here," Fox said. "I've never experienced a situation like that where I've been to someone's house and they gave me money or anything like that. So, it's hard to say what his situation was like. You guys are obviously going to have to talk to him to get that at some point."

Fox doesn't appreciate it that Clarett is taking shots at Jim Tressel. Clarett said his former coach sold him out.

"It's a little disheartening, just because of the experiences that I personally have had with Coach Tressel," Fox said. "Knowing him on a personal level and the way that he treats his players. For me, I could never fathom a situation where he would do something like that to myself, or any other player for that matter."

Everyone knows that Clarett was an excellent player, but Fox was asked for his take on Clarett as a person.

"I don't really know him as a person that well to say much about him," he said. "It's almost like it's a legend or something because you don't see him that often, but you answer a lot of questions about him. I don't really know him that well. He was only here for a year. It's kind of strange."

Surprisingly, Fox says he has no resentment towards Clarett.

"Yeah, I try not to resent people for things," he said. "I usually try and see the good in most people. At this point, I'm just trying to learn the facts like you guys and go from there."

Why would Tressel set Clarett up with a car dealership? Even if Tressel thought the dealership was clean, why not let Clarett find a car on his own?

"Beats me," Fox said. "It could just be a situation where, as a young person, you wouldn't want to go into a dealership and get the run around. So, maybe it was just a situation where he knew they would treat him respectfully."

* Like Fox, defensive end Simon Fraser was another player that was heavily recruited out of high school. But Fraser says he has never been offered a $100 handshake by a booster, or even $20.

"I've never heard or seen anything like that going on," Fraser said.

As a local product from Upper Arlington, Fraser was well known around town from the moment he stepped on campus. He admits it can be difficult saying no to people, even when it's not something shady like accepting money.

"Yeah, you know, it's a tough situation," Fraser said. "I remember I wanted to go back and talk to my high school team, but because I was an Ohio State player, I wasn't able to do that. It's tough to say no, especially to the coach from your high school, but it's something that you have to do. You have to respect the rules and abide by them."

During Clarett's freshman season, he lived in a plush off-campus apartment, while all the other freshmen lived in Morrill Tower. Didn't that send up red flags?

"You know, I don't know," Fraser said. "I think because he came in winter quarter it allowed him to have the option of living off campus, which he exercised. I really didn't think about it too much."


Ohio State escaped with narrow victories over Purdue the last two years and the Boilermakers will be looking for paybacks Saturday.

"You've got to expect a battle anytime you're going into West Lafayette," Fox said. "Every year it seems like it's an Instant Classic on ESPN, or whatnot. So, I'm expecting to go in there and it to be a 60 minute war, or 60 minute-plus war. It's going to be a great game. It's probably going to come down to the last minute like it always does."

The Buckeyes haven't played well on the road this year, but will need to play their best game to get past the Boilermakers.

"Big game for us on the road," Fox said. "They are coming off a tough stretch of games – similar to what we had. But when you look at their games, they lost four games by a total of 10 points. So, it's a situation where they could be 9-0 right now, instead of being 5-4."

Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton has been sidelined with two hip injuries, but is expected to play.

"We're preparing for Orton," Fox said. "Obviously he's been the No. 1 guy and he's been out for a couple of weeks, so we're preparing for him. But (Brandon) Kirsch also is similar to Orton in some aspects, the only difference is that Kirsch is a little more athletic, I think. A little more mobile."

Like everyone else, Fox has been impressed with OSU's Ted Ginn.

"Well, he's obviously a tremendous athlete and a great weapon for a team to have and a tremendous asset for us to have," he said. "As a defense, it's tough to prepare for a guy like that. The good thing is that we have a couple good guys like that – it's not like he's the only weapon that we have. Santonio (Holmes) and those guys can make plays as well, as well as our quarterback. You can try and double Ted, but then you have Santonio running with single coverage. So, that could be a negative situation."

Fox takes a lot of pride in seeing sophomore cornerback Ashton Youboty playing so well.

"His development has been amazing," Fox said. "The game I got hurt he stepped in (Marshall). Then went into N.C. State, got his first interception, and then week by week has just progressed and is just making plays all over the field. We have a production scale and he had like 31 points this past week, which is just tremendous for a young player. He had like 13 tackles and an interception, so he's coming along."

Youboty says Fox is a great mentor for the young players in the secondary.

"He's good with the entire DB unit," Youboty said. "We know we can look toward Dustin to give us encouragement here and there and help us out."

Fox thinks the Buckeyes are peaking at the right time of the season.

"I think we have some momentum right now," he said. "I think Michigan State was a very good football team all around – offense, defense and special teams. They were 4-4, but still for us it's confidence because we were down, we came back and felt like Ohio State of old. You know, two minutes to go and we had the ball and came back and ended up pulling away. I think it gives us a lot of confidence going into this game."

The Buckeyes had a three game winning streak to begin the season, then promptly lost three straight. Fox doesn't think there will be another let down.

"It's a three game win streak, and also a three game win streak in our five game season that we've been talking about for so long," Fox said. "With Purdue and Michigan left, there is going to be no let down, obviously. It's two huge games for us, two of our biggest rivalry games that we have here, so we're excited."

* Fraser knows that Purdue's offense is one of the best in the Big Ten. He is 3-0 against the Boilers in his career, and would love to get the clean sweep. To combat Purdue's offense, they Buckeyes aren't going to be too tricky defensively.

"Purdue has a great offense, but we're going to try and keep it simple this week," Fraser said. "We need to obviously be aware of what they're doing, what sets they're in, but we just need to make sure we are assignment sound and take care of our responsibilities."

There have been a lot of memorable moments in the OSU-PU series recently, but Fraser has a personal favorite.

"My best memory of playing Purdue would have to be Mike Kudla's end zone dance when he scored the touchdown last year," he said. "He looked like a kid in a candy shop."

Fraser thinks that studying last year's film helped the Bucks prepare for Purdue.

"I think you carry over a lot of things from the previous year," he said. "Things that they exposed and were successful with, you know, we've got to fix. And things that we were successful with, we've got to carry into the game. Our coaches have called a great gameplan and we've been able to do that."

The Bucks are feeling good about the three-game winning streak. But it's got to be different than the feeling they had when they were 3-0, right?

"You know, it really isn't," Fraser said. "Because to us, we are 3-0 in our five game season. We've got two tough games and this is what we really want to focus on and what we want to accomplish, we just have to take the next step."

With Jay Richarson still hampered with an injury, the Buckeyes have done some shufflig to try and find that third defensive end.

"Yeah, Vernon (Gholston), he's helping out," Fraser said. "And Dave Patterson has been able to move out to the end, and Joel (Penton) has been able to do some stuff too. I think as long as we keep rotating and keeping people fresh, I think we'll be fine. There's not really that ‘third guy.' We've got people we can move around and stuff."

Ohio State has fielded a young defensive line all season. Fraser is the only senior and he thinks the group has come along very well.

"Oh yeah, I think we're playing well as a D-line," he said. "I look at this past week of how well we played, and how hard we played, and the competitiveness that we've had. It really doesn't look that much different from the teams we were the year before, or in 2002. I'm really happy with where we are sitting at right now as a D-line, but there's still a lot of improvement to do and hopefully we'll get that done by the end of this year."

The Buckeyes have gotten more pressure on the quarterback recently. Fraser says they haven't switched up their schemes, he just thinks they're playing better.

"I think we're just doing the same old things, but just cutting loose and having more fun with it," he said.

* Youboty leads the team in interceptions and might develop into next great corner at OSU. He has good size, speed and has really stepped up his tackling as well.

"I try and be good at both (pass coverage and run support), but Coach (Mel) Tucker really challenges me to make tackles, because early in the season I missed a couple," Youboty said. "We work a lot on tacking drills, so it shows on the field."

Youboty was one of the key players in the win over Michigan State.

"Yeah, it was a big deal," he said. "It was fun to be out there and make some plays and help this team win."

The Texas product is looking forward to playing pass-happy Purdue this week.

"I think this will be a good game because they will challenge us DBs in the passing game," he said. "I mean, they still have a good running game, but this is more focused on DBs because this is our chance as a unit to prove that we're good.

"On film, their receivers look really good. So, we're just getting ready to get after them."

Youboty was asked if OSU was planning on using more bump-and-run coverage since most of PU's receivers are not physical.

"We'll keep that spontaneous," he said.

Youboty has reached many of his personal goals, but this season didn't begin the way he had hoped.

"Coming into camp I was planning on being a starter, but it didn't work out," he said. "I had a couple little injuries here and there. But besides that, I was looking forward to being a starter, but it didn't happen. I started with the nickel package and worked my way from there and here I am."

But he has no regrets. Everything worked out well for him. He's not just starting, he's one of the best players on the defense.

"It's actually gone better than I could expect," Youboty said. "Besides not starting at the beginning, everything has worked out for me."

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