Half-full or half-wit? …Was/not was? In the sorrowfully spiraling saga of our hero, Maurice Clarett, how many of you can remember back to those innocent halcyon days when Jim Tressel was first announced as the new Ohio State coach? Yes, it was January 2001. And an ebullient Youngstown lad named Maurice was so excited that Coach Tressel would be the head man at OSU that he wanted to commit, as a junior, that January. The coaches convinced Tressel friend (and Warren Harding coach Thom McDaniels) to hold off on that commitment until mid-February. Why? They didn't want to spook the year-older signees, Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross.
My, how the worm has turned in the interim four years, eh? Maurice brought his cornucopia of problems to the school, he helped deliver the greatest season in our history and he is doing everything within his idiot savant powers to destroy that legacy, and himself in the process. He brought shame on the university, and then he tried to concoct more shame - and to get back to his revered limelight. He angered his old high school coach and betrayed that relationship. Is it any mystery that "the best athlete in Ohio" two of the last three years (Prescott Burgess and Mario Manningham), both from Warren Harding both ended up committing to Michigan? He dissed Marcus Allen when McDaniels set up that meet for some counseling. He blew off Jim Brown's advice when Brown came to Columbus playing a transparent "race card' but ultimately did a 180, after reviewing the truth.
Maurice reminds me of Don King, who left boxing destroyed in his wake and left the rest of us asking, "Can't anybody stop this guy, for pity's sake"? The difference is that King made millions off his aberrant behavior - Clarett is diminishing his sport and himself at the same time.
Think not? Think it through with me. We all know that thousands of talented athletes work for free for the NCAA, while the confederated schools make many millions of dollars off those efforts. Kids that want to work while they are in college playing football get nice jobs at minimal pay to offset that disparity. Clarett is "exposing" and holding to ridicule those minimally remunerative situations. You think that the thousands of college athletes appreciate that unwanted and unwarranted scrutiny? I think not.
And think of those guys in the NFL. The average playing career is about three years and the average number of operations is about six. So what they really wanted (sarcasm font here…) is some loudmouth upsetting the whole employment structure of professional football by aping the NBA, lowering the average age of participants by 2-3 years, lowering their pay and financial life expectancy at the same time. This isn't golf or tennis, fellas, where slings and arrows bounce right off. This is the National Violence League, where big mouths tend to lose their teeth quickly. Even Mike Williams was smart enough to close his mouth after Maurice cost him his final season of college football. He knew where he was headed.
So, let's recount. Maurice has trashed his legacies at his high school (only there for three seasons) and his college (only there for one). He has ruined "lifetime relationships" with the only two coaches he has known. He is hurting college football and all the players in that game. He tried to wound professional football and those players. Certainly, some desperate team will draft him (they drafted Randy Moss, Corey Dillon and Chad Johnson, after all - just to bring up three more eccentrics with Ohio connections). But after legal costs, hangers-on expenses, agency fees and the like - it's an easy prediction that Maurice Clarett will be broken both emotionally and financially when this whole checkers game is played out. ESPN will have done well by him - maybe they will give him a job. The rest of us will have suffered unnecessarily.
They say that you never go into a battle of wits with an unarmed man. And they say that you should look at the glass as half-full and not half empty. I say that Maurice's reliance on half-wit advice has gotten him to full-on empty. And he is more than half-full. He is completely full. Of "it" and of himself.
And he will have nothing to show for it in the end other than the ignominy he brought upon himself and upon all those with whom he came into contact.
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When they say it's not about the money…It's about the money! A prime example is the basketball game against Chattanooga last week when the Buckeyes were bounced from their home Schottenstein court because of…Sesame Street? That's right - even though the home schedule is published a year in advance, the school made a better deal, it appears to book Sesame Street into the Scott and pushed basketball down the street to St. John Arena. You can hear the Rose Bowl now: "Uh, yeah, we've got this football game scheduled on New Year's Day but if you can get me the Springsteen concert, we'll check around for another venue for the football stuff"…
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Recruiting from the odds and ends zone…To drill down farther into the conclusion of our recruiting season, each week, I will re-cap a position or two and speculate on what is happening, what will happen, and what it looks like within the state for the following year. Today, we will take a look at the running backs and fullbacks…
Running Backs: As most of the Buckeye Nation knows, we lose seniors Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross next year. Coming back will be sophomore Antonio Pittman and freshman (eligibility-wise) Erik Haw. Pittman showed flashed last year but also showed freshman problems (fumbles, blocking, discipline issues). Haw is still an enigma but he has a ton of po-tential.
We are projecting that the Buckeyes will take as many as three running backs in this class. The perfect duo would be a lightening fast "scatback" and a big heavy hitter. The two most likely candidates for those roles are Florida's Maurice Wells and New York's Jason Gwaltney, respectively. We appear to lead for Wells but the problem there is that everyone wants the kid. The problem with Gwaltney is that he has already committed to West Virginia and he still has a couple more visits! Possibilities behind this pair: Ohio superback Javon Ringer, PA's Mikell Simpson, Washington State's Jonathan Stewart, Florida's Mike Ford and Florida's Conredge Collins. OSU and Simpson don't seem to be getting together. Stewart and Ford don't seem to have their grades together and Collins doesn't have an offer. Ringer is the "new enigma" with mighty gifts and a stated desire to be a Buckeye. I think that if he was willing to gray shirt (chances are slim…), or that one of the two front-runners dropped out (chances are good), Javon will be wearing scarlet and gray.
Next year in Ohio? There could be a great one. Akron Garfield's Chris Wells has been the No. 1 player in his class since his freshman year and he is the big back (6'2" and 225) that the Buckeyes crave. He has already been offered and it looks like a race between Ohio State and Michigan. Other good looking backs next year include Ray Smalls from Glenville. Anthony Elzy of Warren JFK is another "Small-ish" back with glittering numbers and Big League potential
My call? We get Wells and one of either Gwaltney or Ringer. And we are ecstatic…
Fullback: If we take a third back, it would be here. Perhaps they take a running back (think Branden Joe) and bulk him up into a blocking back. But would you have done that with a Maurice Clarett (I know, I know, we would like to make him into a blocking sled, right now…).
The return-ees next year include the bridesmaid Brandon Schnittker, the versatile-but-not-yet-playing Stan White and the presumed starter, sophomore Dionte Johnson. Schnittker will be a senior and White will be a junior.
There could be any number of reasons why the Bucks aren't in on fullbacks this year but the main reason is that there is nothing happening in Ohio. Another might be that they are hoping that walk-on Ryan Franzinger shows us something.
Next year in Ohio? Not much happening then either. My early favorite is Xylon Purkiss from Ravenna. Xylon is 6'0" and 250 pounds and probably not quite what we're looking for, but he's an early favorite for the All-Name team.
My call? We wait until next year and take the best that the nation is willing to give us…
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Get me those numbers - STAT…For people like me without much imagination, we turn to statistics to find interesting factoids. Two of my favorite stat-generators right now are AJ Hawk and Teddy Ginn.
Hawk has been leading the Big Ten for much of the season in tackles. How about on a national scale? How about, he is third in the nation (for 11 games) in total tackles with 136? And Kevin Harrison, from Eastern Michigan (with 146) is not likely to add to his total. The only guy with a chance then to edge out the Hawkster for the No. 1 position is Tim McGarigle from Northwestern at 141 and, thanks to their loss in Hawaii, there's no opportunity for Tim to add to that total…
Going from Hawk to the high-flying Ginn…Teddy finally qualified to rank in the "Individual Punts Returned" category (you need an average of 1.2 for every game your team has played). Ted Jr. debuted on the list at No. 1, of course, averaging 26.93 yards per return; second place is Utah State's Kevin Robinson at a distant 22.47. Interestingly, only two guys (Devin Hester of Miami and Chad Owens of Hawaii) have as many as three punt returns for TD's this year while TG has four. As interesting (perhaps), Hester is the only sophomore out of the top five punt-returners in the nation. The rest are all freshmen…
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ESPN again…And last in line, I want to thank the 20+ Bucknutters that e-mailed me - after my request to turn in their ESPN the Magazine subscriptions - that they had actually done so. For those not following, here's the beef: If there was a real - and substantiated story - I can't complain that ESPN chose to run it. But for a manufactured story with no exhibited basis in fact, the magazine trashed the university for its own financial gain (read: we just want to sell magazines). The only way to get even is to vote with your wallet - turn in your ESPN subscriptions and let that yellow rag wither and die.
And if you do, let me hear about it! It warms the cockles of this tired and hardened heart…
And for any other heart-to-heart with Mr. Bucknuts, feel free to unload on him at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com