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Set at safety: College queries have Smith on the defensive



Published: Thu, August 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Hubbard running back said he has narrowed his college choices to two: Ohio State or Notre Dame.

By TOM WILLIAMS

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

HUBBARD -- Two of Trumbull County's best football players, Warren Harding running back Maurice Clarett and Howland offensive lineman Doug Datish, have verbally committed to play for Jim Tressel at Ohio State University.

Hubbard running back Anthony Smith said he may join them.

Smith, who led the Eagles last fall with more than 1,500 yards rushing, has made unofficial visits to Ohio State and Notre Dame.

"I really enjoyed both of them," said the 6-foot-2-inch, 175-pound athlete who plays safety on defense. "Right now, those are my top two choices. It's going to be one of those two."

Smith said safety will be his position in college.

"Everyone that has called so far has asked me whether I wanted to play tailback or safety," said Smith of his conversations with recruiters. "I prefer safety because I'm built more like a safety than a running back. If I get a little bigger, I wouldn't mind moving to tailback. I've improved on my power and speed; basically, I'm just waiting on the weight."

Patient: The other wait Smith has is for taking the ACT test on Oct. 8. He said he won't make his final decision about college or make his five official visits to campuses until he has the test results.

Whatever he decides, it will be tough to change his mind on the position.

"I like safety because I can read the whole field because I'm the furthest back," said Smith of his two positions. "I like being the last line of defense," explaining that he's responsible for making sure tackles.

"I like the position because you don't get that much action, but you get enough to where it's exciting," Smith said. "I really like playing safety against a passing team.

Hubbard coach Jeff Bayuk, who is beginning his 11th season with the Eagles, says Smith is "definitely one of the best players I've had at Hubbard. Although we've had some players get Division I scholarships, they haven't been scholarships from the schools [of the caliber] that have been offering him.

"For a player to get offers from Ohio State, Syracuse, West Virginia and Notre Dame, that's obviously very special talent," Bayuk said.

High praise: Jerad Jordan, Hubbard fullback, said Smith "means a lot to our team because he's a good leader. His talent brings pride to the team. He keeps people playing their best. If they do something bad, he reminds them of what to do to correct their mistakes.

"He's the most gifted teammate that I've played with. It's been a privilege to play with someone being looked at by Division I [colleges]," Jordan said.

Smith says Ohio State has a couple of bonuses going for it. One is Clarett, a friend of his since they played youth football in the Volney Rogers League in Youngstown. The other is the new head coach.

About Clarett, Smith said, "We've played football together ever since Little League. We've talked about going to the same college. It would be fun playing with him or someone else from this area."

Smith says playing for Tressel "would be a bonus because he really stresses academics. He's a great coach. He's a real straight-forward guy, he doesn't beat around the bush. That's what I like about him.

"He just tells you everything you need to hear that you don't want to hear. Some coaches will just tell you everything you want to hear."

Dream come true: Smith, who plans to major in business management, says attending college is a longtime dream. "This is something I've always wanted to do. Every kid watches the NFL, but as you get older, you watch more college than NFL [games]. It's always been my dream to go to Ohio State."

Smith said last year's playoff run to the regional final was icing on the cake after area experts predicted the Eagles would be lucky to win five games.

"We weren't picked to even go .500," Smith said, calling last season "a confidence builder for us. Our goal is to go further [into the playoffs] than last year."

It won't be easy. Bayuk's team graduated all five starting linemen. Three are playing college football -- Ryan Meyers at Miami of Ohio, Steve Pompili at Edinboro and Keith Wagner at Marietta.

"Our offensive line last year was three times bigger than what they are this year," Smith said. "That's a real big loss for our offense, but this year's [linemen] are quicker.

"It puts a lot of pressure on me because I know I have to carry the team on offense. Our offense is going to try and help out the defense so that we don't have to depend on [the defenders] to win every ball game."




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