OHIO STATE Healthy Clarett ready to rumble for Bucks
The Buckeyes are counting on a big game from the tailback against Miami.
By ROB TODOR
VINDICATOR SPORTS EDITOR
PHOENIX -- Freshman tailback Maurice Clarett pronounced himself free from the nagging and painful shoulder injury that he sustained in the Penn State game Oct. 26.
But, his week has been clouded over a controversy with the university athletic department about being allowed to return to Youngstown on Monday to attend the funeral of a close friend, Joaquin "Juan" Bell, who was murdered last month.
Clarett was still upset on Tuesday, the last day he spoke with reporters, but on Thursday Tressel said the issue was not a distraction for the Buckeyes in their final preparations.
"From a personality standpoint, I don't think I've ever coached anyone exactly like Maurice," said Tressel. "Tamron Smith [the former All-American running back at Youngstown State] would probably be the first guy that would pop in my mind that was like him."
Clarett's physical health and mindset will have to be at full strength tonight.
"I'm very confident in the way our guys feel about playing this game," said Tressel. "I don't think when you have group of 105 players and 20-some coaches and trainers and managers that you ever pretend that everyone's on the same page.
"But I feel good about how they feel about one another, I feel good about the excitement that our people have about the game, I feel good about their preparation, and now you have to see if that turns into getting it done on Friday evening."
Ohio State center Alex Stepanovich earlier this week admitted that Clarett brings a difference into the Buckeye huddle that is missing when he is on the sidelines.
Clarett must run the ball with the same reckless abandon he did early in the season and again in the season finale against Michigan. Clearly, that style is what makes him so special.
Additionally, the Buckeyes' ability to run the ball, whether it be with Clarett, Maurice Hall or Lydell Ross, will allow quarterback Craig Krenzel to utilize the play-action passing game.
"We can't let them make first downs," said Coker. "When we've gotten into trouble is when we've allowed teams to control the clock.
"Obviously, they have big play opportunities with their wide receivers and Clarett, but we've got to control the line of scrimmage and we've got to not allow them to make first downs and control the clock."
The performance of Gamble and fellow wideout Michael Jenkins, who, at 6-foot-5, will have a distinct height advantage over the Miami cornerbacks, will be important, because while it is Clarett and the other backs who manage the clock, it is the passing game that has produced some of the season's biggest plays.
"The guy with the ball in his hands is crucial, whether it's Dorsey or Krenzel," said Tressel. "The decisions he makes before the ball is snapped is crucial. The decisions they make or don't make will have a huge determinant in the outcome of this game.
"I think you're seeing two of the best. Neither of those guys care how many passes they throw, how many times they have to do this or that. Those two guys want to win and that's why these two teams are front and center -- because they have two unselfish quarterbacks who have found ways to win."