COLUMBUS - Even one of the crown jewels of Ohio State's 2002 recruiting class doesn't think much of those who say the Buckeyes pulled in one of the top groups of signees in the country yesterday.
Some rated Ohio State as high as second with most rating Texas at the top.
“Those ratings are based on potential,” said Maurice Clarett, Ohio's Mr. Football last season. “The ratings don't mean too much because I've seen people that had high ratings and they fell off and I've seen people walk on and make an impact. I don't think the ratings have too much to do with anything. They're just for the public and the media to hype people.”
Clarett, a bruising 6-0, 230-pound running back, was one of 25 names received on the first day for the signing of national letters of intent. He carried 139 times for 1,369 yards and 22 touchdowns in the 2001 regular season. He also had 14 catches for 253 yards and three touchdowns, returned four punts for touchdowns and had another on a kickoff return.
Coach Jim Tressel, welcoming his second recruiting class, said he was excited by the presence of Clarett and 17 other Ohioans.
“It all fell into place,” said Tressel, whose first Ohio State team went 7-5. “Our coaches did a good job of recruiting the state of Ohio and of identifying the type of young men we want to have here.”
Clarett is already enrolled at Ohio State and has spent the past few weeks just waiting to see who his new teammates would be. He said he is ready to compete for the job vacated by the graduated Jonathan Wells.
“It's a friendly competition,” he said of the battle with Lydell Ross, Maurice Hall and others for playing time. “I just came down here like everybody else to compete for a starting position. That's everyone's intention.”
Ohio State missed out on wide receiver Richard Washington of Fort Myers, Fla., who had verbally committed to the Buckeyes but backed out at the last minute and signed with North Carolina State.
Among the other high-profile recruits locked up by the Buckeyes were linebacker Mike D'Andrea of Avon Lake, linebacker Stan White Jr. - son of the Ohio State All-American, and last-minute addition Derek Morris, a 6-6, 350-pound offensive lineman from Huntersville, N.C.
“He's made it very difficult [for other coaches], even more so than Mack Brown in Texas, to come into the state of Ohio and pull out an elite name,” Allen Wallace of Laguna Beach, Calif.-based SuperPrep Magazine said.
Perhaps the most acclaimed is quarterback Justin Zwick of Massillon Washington. Many Ohio State fans have already embraced the 6-4, 210-pound passer as an immediate starter.
ANN ARBOR - Michigan knows that it can recruit football players in any region of the country. The Wolverines, with their national reputation, always have and always will look beyond the state line to woo top players.
This year, however, Lloyd Carr didn't have to look far to attract a recruiting class that analysts are ranking behind only Ohio State in the Big Ten, and between fourth and 13th in the nation.
Carr announced the signings of 21 players, including 12 from Michigan, the most in-state recruits the Wolverines have had in a class in more than 20 years.
Defensive lineman Gabriel Watson (6-4, 334, Novi) is considered the top player in the state.
Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady came to Michigan from Northern California, as will quarterback Matt Gutierrez of Concord, Calif. Brady's uncle is the principal at De La Salle High School, where Gutierrez was the quarterback.
UM signed three receivers including Ann Arbor Huron wide receiver Carl Tabb, who is the first hometown player signed since Andy Moeller (Ann Arbor Pioneer, 1982). The others are Chicago's Jason Avant and Steve Breaston of North Braddock, Pa.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Tyrone Willingham capped a hectic five-week span as Notre Dame's new coach by signing 17 recruits.
The class includes defensive linemen Travis Leitko (6-6, 250) of The Woodlands, Texas, and Derek Landri of Concord, Calif., both of whom were rated among the top 25 players in the nation by various analysts. Landri was rated the top lineman by Parade.
“Notre Dame's class top to bottom is excellent. What it lacks a bit in skill positions, it makes up in big players,” said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of Prep Football Report. “They have one of the two best offensive lines.”
That line includes James Bonelli of St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, Calif.; Bob Morton of McKinney, Texas; Scott Raridon of Mason City, Iowa; Jamie Ryan of Marian Catholic High in Tamaqua, Pa.; and tight ends Anthony Fasano of Verona, N.J., and Marcus Freeman of Cretin-Derham Hall of St. Paul, Minn.
Recruiting analysts rated Notre Dame's class from about 10th in the nation to just outside the top 10, even though running back Lorenzo Booker, one of the nation's top prospects, picked Florida State over the Irish last night.
Among the other higher-profile players were wide receiver Maurice Stovall of Archbishop Carroll in Philadelphia, defensive lineman Derek Landri of Concord, Calif., and defensive lineman Chris Frome of Saugus, Calif.