Running back Maurice Clarett got a leg up on the rest of Ohio State's freshman class by enrolling in school early and taking part in spring drills. But don't tell Clarett that he has an advantage over the other rookies.
"I don't know how much of an advantage I have, being that I have never gone through a college season before just like the rest of our freshmen," Clarett told Bucknuts.com. "We haven't played any games and the experience factor hasn't kicked in yet. Being here in the spring helped me a lot, but the other running backs have been here a whole year, not just a half year."
Obviously, Clarett isn't trying to compare himself to the other freshmen. He is comparing himself to Lydell Ross, Maurice Hall and JaJa Riley, the other three horses in the RB stable.
Is one of Clarett's goals to start?
"I just want a fair opportunity. I can't really say what the coaches are thinking, but when we get to camp in less than two weeks, we'll see whoever
the best person is for the job. If I don't earn the job, then I don't deserve the job and I don't want to be in there. But if I do better than all
the other players, then I feel like I should be in there before anyone else," he said.
Most Ohio State fans envision a running back rotation of sorts this year.
Maybe something like 10-15 carries per game for Clarett and Ross, 5-8 for Hall and maybe a few for Riley. What does Clarett think of splitting the workload?
"Eventually, I want to be the guy who carries the weight of the team, but I really couldn't say right now because it's early and I haven't gone through enough. My interim goal is just to make it through camp and stay healthy. If I can do that, I think I will have a productive season. But I'm not thinking too far ahead right now. I just want to work hard in camp and good things will happen."
The 6-foot, 230-pound Clarett already looks as sturdy as an NFL back. But he is still trying to add a little extra chisel to his frame.
"The pain and the hits are bigger in college because everybody is bigger, stronger and faster. So, I'm just trying to get myself prepared physically and not setting any personal goals as far as yards or anything like that. It's all about being productive when I do get the chance to play. I'm just working hard to be the best and working to get to that top spot. All summer, I've just tried to stay really focused on the weight room and doing what I need to do to get ready for the physical nature of the Big Ten."
Clarett said a lot more came out of the summer than just lifting and 7-on-7 drills.
"We are a family here. Someone like (Mike) Doss, he doesn't owe anything to anybody, but he is always trying to be a leader and just helping out anyway he can. I mean, I'm an offensive player and he's a defensive player, but he's been a big help just showing me what the college game is all about... I think it's been like that for all the guys this summer. We came together as a family."
Although Clarett rushed for 2,194 yards as a senior at Warren Harding and was named Mr. Football and USA Today Offensive Player of the Year, there was some talk that Clarett was "sandbagged" by coach Thom McDaniels. Clarett only averaged about 14 carries per game during the regular season (his carries more than doubled in the playoffs), but didn't have a problem with the way he was used.
"Coach McDaniels is not the type of person to run the score up on somebody. He has too much respect for the other teams. We were scoring a lot of points in the first half and he didn't really see the need to run up the score, or get me injured for the playoffs and things like that. So, I didn't really look at it as being sandbagged, I looked at it from a coach's standpoint. If we were up by 56 points in the first half, it wasn't necessary for me to be in there in the second half."
Just like in high school, Clarett plans on wearing the No. 13 jersey at OSU. And it doesn't bother him that he will have to share that number with cornerback Harlen Jacobs.
"Yeah, that's no big deal. And there's actually three people, we have a kicker who wants 13 too."
Jacobs, two years Clarett's elder, could have kept the number for himself, but decided not to be territorial about it.
"It doesn't bother me. I could have said no, but that's always been Maurice's number too, so we decided to share it," Jacobs told Bucknuts.
See, Clarett was wrong. This isn't anything like a family. If two brothers both wanted the same number on their football team, they would've been fighting it out for weeks.
Anyway, what can we expect from Clarett this year? Big things. Ross isn't going to give up the starter's job without a fight and Hall was the most
impressive of them all in the spring, but there is just something special about
Clarett. He has workhorse written all over him. Does that mean he'll start right away? Who knows? But who starts isn't very
important this year. There will be at least a two-man rotation and the true "starter" will be the guy who gets the ball in the fourth quarter of big
games. I'm just glad the OSU coaches have three, possibly four, studs to choose from.