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Ohio State gets good, not great, 2003 class



Published: Sun, February 9, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Buckeyes return 18 starters from last year, which may have hurt their recruiting chances.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Losing out on a few of the state's top football recruits and a top-notch athlete who could have revamped Ohio State's quarterback picture didn't faze Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel.

On the first day high school players could sign national letters of intent, Tressel preferred to praise the ones who picked Ohio State rather than lament those who got away.

"That's the way it goes. If you're recruiting the right guys you're not going to get them all," Tressel said. "What's most important is you better feel good about the ones we've got. I feel extremely good about the ones we've got."

The defending national champion Buckeyes added six defensive backs, four defensive linemen, two linebackers, a tight end, an offensive tackle and a wide receiver in a 15-player recruiting class, Tressel's third at Ohio State.

Several of the recruits played both offense and defense in high school, and Tressel believes they could be good enough to see time on both sides of the ball in college.

"They really want to come in and see if they can contribute early," Tressel said of the players, who include 13 high schoolers and one college transfer. "They're willing to do what the team needs."

Going elsewhere

There were spots for more players, but some of them chose to go elsewhere. Warren Harding defensive back Prescott Burgess, a high school teammate of star running back Maurice Clarett, and Massillon Washington linebacker Shawn Crable both picked Michigan. Highly touted quarterback Michael Bush, Kentucky's Mr. Football, decided to stay home and attend Louisville.

Tressel said some players could have shied away from the Buckeyes because they have 18 starters, including the entire offense, returning from the 2002 team that went 14-0 and won the national championship by beating Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

"You know, maybe it made it a little bit easier for someone to talk to recruits about 'Hey, you don't want to go there, they've got all these guys coming back, they're the champions,' all that stuff," Tressel said.

"But I'll take the championship. We'll worry about all that other stuff a little bit later."

Among the players signing with the Buckeyes are two who are already taking classes at Ohio State -- defensive backs Donte Whitner of Cleveland Glenville and Ashton Youboty of Klein High School in Houston.

Like Clarett last year, Whitner and Youboty graduated from high school early and decided to enroll at Ohio State for the winter academic quarter to get a jump on their competition.

With senior safeties Michael Doss and Donnie Nickey out of eligibility and Ohio State thin at cornerback -- other than two-way sensation Chris Gamble -- both figure on getting playing time in the secondary as freshman.

"I thought about how many DBs Ohio State had and I saw an opportunity to play early," Whitner said.

Youboty is looking forward to competing against Whitner, his roommate, along with other defensive back recruits Tony Gonzalez (Cleveland St. Ignatius), Ira Guilford (Hoboken, N.J.), Dareus Hiley (Cleveland Glenville) and Curt Lukens (North Canton Hoover).

"Before I even came here, I knew there was going to be competition," Youboty said. "I knew they were going to go after DBs."

Among Ohio State's other recruits are Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary defensive lineman Sian Cotton and linebacker Anthony Schlegel, who will have to sit out the 2003 season after transferring from Air Force. Schlegel started all 13 games for the Falcons last season and was a first-team All-Mountain West Conference selection.

St. Henry quarterback Todd Boeckman, originally a member of the 2003 recruiting class, agreed to defer his scholarship to 2004.




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