COLUMBUS - The Ohio State running game, in a state of flux over the injury to Heisman Trophy candidate Chris "Beanie" Wells, might have received a solid boost to its future stock on Saturday when the nation's top high school running back indicated that he plans to play for the Buckeyes.
Floridian Jaamal Berry, a senior at Miami's Palmetto High, reportedly was in attendance at Ohio State's season-opening rout over Youngstown State, along with his mother and several close friends.
Berry (5-11, 195) told the OSU fan site Bucknuts.com that he gave Ohio State an oral commitment last weekend to accept a scholarship offer. Players cannot make a formal, written commitment until February, and NCAA rules prohibit Ohio State's coaches from commenting on any prospect until that commitment becomes official.
"I think he is a guy who could come in and contend for time right away," said Bucknuts managing editor Steve Helwagen. "And again, Ohio State has gotten one of the top players in Florida. It just shows again how OSU is taking advantage of Miami and Florida State being down."
Berry, who had 1,033 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns last season after rushing for 522 yards and five scores as a sophomore, told Bucknuts that he had offers from Florida, Mississippi, LSU and Michigan, and he might still visit several of those schools to fulfill promises he made to recruiters. He indicated that those trips should not be an indication that his commitment to Ohio State is less than firm.
"I made my decision for a reason," Berry said. "I feel at home at Ohio State. I like everything about Ohio State. I'm good with my decision."
Berry is the 25th high school player to commit to Ohio State for the 2009 season, according to Bucknuts.
- Matt Markey