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OHIO STATE SPRING GAME Red squad has decided 'star' advantage



Published: Mon, April 28, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Maurice Clarett is the Gray's best player and he's sitting out.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Maurice Clarett doesn't think the Gray team is very good.

And he's on it.

After Ohio State seniors picked sides for Saturday's annual intrasquad scrimmage at Ohio Stadium, Clarett said the draft specialists for the Gray might end up in the NFL someday -- but not as general managers.

"Oh, man! Somebody messed up on the Gray team," Clarett said while trying to stifle laughter. "The Scarlet team has the whole starting offensive line and the whole starting defensive line. They have the starting quarterback, they have Lydell Ross and Mike Jenkins.

"I don't know what they were doing on the Gray team. They didn't make the right decisions."

Clarett, Ohio State's leading rusher last year as a freshman, said the Gray coaches wasted a pick on him. He's being held out of the intrasquad scrimmage while he strengthens an injured shoulder.

"I'm on the Gray team, physically," he said with a wide smile. "But I'm going to go with the Scarlet team."

Big crowd expected

Ohio State officials are unsure of how many people to expect for the game. They printed 85,000 tickets (at $5 each) and more than 50,000 had been sold by late in the week.

Usually, walk-up sales make up a large percentage of attendance at the spring game. With rain and chilly weather predicted, the crowd might not be as big as expected.

No matter. Bragging rights still are on the line for the two squads. Players are trying to earn their stripes by making a big play or catching a coach's eye.

"Guys are real excited about being able to show off what they can do," center Nick Mangold said.

Even with Clarett watching from the sidelines and one offensive and five defensive starters gone from the magical 2002 season, it should be an entertaining day.

Starting quarterback Craig Krenzel will direct the Scarlet with backup Scott McMullen handling the duties for the Gray.

With Clarett out of the picture, Maurice Hall (Gray) and Ross (Scarlet) will continue their spirited competition for playing time.

Holmes makes impact

Redshirt freshman Santonio Holmes, one of the biggest bright spots from the preceding 14 spring practices, will show his blistering speed. He's the favorite to fill the flanker spot left open by the graduation of Chris Vance.

Seniors Fred Pagac Jr. and Jason Bond and sophomores Mike D'Andrea and A.J. Hawk are vying for playing time at the linebacker spots previously held by Cie Grant and All-American Matt Wilhelm. Anthony Schlegel, a two-year lettermen at Air Force, will play in the spring game but won't play in an official game until 2004.

Sophomores Will Allen and Tyler Everett are the front-runners to fill the safety spots Michael Doss and Donnie Nickey held down the past three seasons.

With All-American Andy Groom graduated, B.J. Sander finally steps in as the top punter. A touted recruit four years ago, he's spent almost his entire career in the shadows.

Hawk said the game is no laughing matter to the players.

"You want to win playing against your teammates," he said. "There might be 50,000 or 80,000 people watching the game. That's unbelievable just for a spring game. With the fans we have here in Columbus, you don't want to disappoint anyone."

Adding to the flavor will be the presence of several ex-Ohio State players. Current or former NFL players who will be serving as honorary coaches include Eddie George, Chris Spielman, Keith Byars, Bobby Hoying, Terry Glenn, Mike Tomczak, Na'il Diggs, Shawn Springs, Mike Vrabel and Ahmed Plummer.

At halftime of the scrimmage, wide receiver Joey Galloway will present a check for $100,000 to the university to endow an athletic scholarship.




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