HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL Burgess is Ohio's best, but will he be a Buckeye?
The Warren Harding senior says he will wait until after the season to commit.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
WARREN -- Ohio's most sought-after high school football player was wearing a gray Ohio State football camp T-shirt Thursday night inside the Warren Harding High locker room.
Prescott Burgess grew up in Columbus.
He dreamed of being a Buckeye when he was a kid.
His coach, Thom McDaniels, has coached several players who went on to play at Ohio State, including recent Harding graduate Maurice Clarett and the player Burgess is most often compared to -- Mike Doss.
Still, Burgess is not a lock to go to Ohio State.
"When I first started getting recruited, I thought I would go there," he said of Columbus. "But all these other schools started coming and they had good programs and I realized I can't just look at Ohio State."
Burgess, a senior defensive back and wide receiver for the Raiders, is the top-ranked prospect in Ohio according to several publications -- including Ohio's Future Stars and Ohio Football Recruiting News.
He's 6-feet, 4-inches, weighs 225 pounds and runs a 4.55 40-yard dash. He's weighing offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee and Florida, but has yet to visit the latter two. He said he's going to wait until after the season to commit.
"Ohio State is still No. 1, but I just want to make sure I pick the right school," he said. "They all have good programs and good teams and have a lot of players who go to the pros."
The NFL isn't the only consideration -- "I'm thinking about college first," he said -- but it is a consideration.
"[Defensive backs] in the NFL are getting bigger and bigger," said Burgess, who is not keen on switching to linebacker. "As long as I keep my speed and footwork, it's a possibility. I don't think I'm going to get any slower."
He has received national recognition -- publications like Street and Smith's, Athlon's Sports and Tom Lemming's Pro Football Report have him ranked on their preseason All-America teams -- and has drawn raves from McDaniels, who said he's a better tackler than Doss.
"That just makes me work harder," he said. "I enjoy hearing it, but I just want to take advantage of my opportunities. Not too many people get to go to college for free and I'm thankful for that."
Putting it to rest
The only drawback has been the rumors swirling on Internet chat rooms.
A sampling: He and Clarett don't get along; he and Clarett are good friends; Ohio State is last on his list; Ohio State is first on his list; he will end up in Florida or Michigan.
When asked about it, he just laughed.
"Yeah, I hear that stuff," he said, smiling. "There are people who don't have enough to do and they think they know what they're talking about. I don't worry about it."
Burgess still has a bad taste in his mouth from Harding's regional final loss to Cleveland St. Ignatius last fall. The Raiders lost Clarett to graduation, but could be even better this season.
"Every day, I think about that game and it just pushes me harder and harder," he said. "I'll see people on their knees at practice and I get after them.
"We had a chance to win state last year and we blew it. We can't let it happen again. I feel like we're going to win it."
Buckeye coach Jim Tressel received got high marks for last year's recruiting class and one of the big reasons was his success in Ohio, which had a number of top prospects.
This year is no different, and the Mahoning Valley is especially rich.
Ohio Future Stars has ranked two other Raiders in its top 100 -- defensive back/quarterback Mike Phillips (12th) and quarterback Mike Kokal (66th). Both started last year and are expected to split time at quarterback again this season.
Ursuline tight end Louis Irizarry -- the No. 2 prospect of OFS and the No. 3 of OFRN -- committed to the Buckeyes two weeks ago.
Other Irish in the top 100 include offensive lineman Matt Maizel (25th) and running back Terrence Graves (26th), who will likely head to North Carolina.
Irish tailback Delbert Ferguson is the mag's top-ranked junior and quarterback Daryl Clark is the fourth-ranked junior. Maizel's brother, Corey, is No. 13 among sophomores.
Among the other top 100 seniors are: Fitch offensive lineman Mike McGlynn (23rd, headed to Pitt), Chaney defensive tackle Keilen Dykes (27th), Boardman tight end Mike Villagrana (49th), Poland quarterback Sean Clayton (53rd) and Fitch running back Davanzo Tate (57th).