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OSU looks to cash in on Fiesta win

Posted: Wednesday January 08, 2003 1:53 AM

Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes shocked the football world with their thrilling double-overtime upset over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Tressel took OSU to its first national title in 34 years; now it looks as if he'll thrive in the recruiting wars.

Even before the Fiesta Bowl, Tressel and his staff were on their way to a stellar recruiting class. Recently, Donte Whitner and Dareus Hiley, teammates from Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville High School, both committed to the Buckeyes.

Whitner is rated the nation’s top cover corner by, and Hiley is not too far behind him. Other secondary standouts committed to play in Columbus are Tony Gonzalez, Ashton Youboty and Curt Lukens. In the trenches, Ohio State has already picked up commitments from standout defensive tackles Brandon Maupin and David Patterson and mammoth offensive tackle Kenyon Buford from Tennessee.

Louis Irizarry, another OSU commit, is without question one of America’s top tight ends. The Buckeyes have already secured 13 verbal commitments and should sign anywhere from 17 to 20 prospects on National Signing Day.

There are still many high-profile recruits on the Buckeyes' recruiting board. Who will they land between now and Feb. 5? Let's take a look.

Staying in-state, two more defensive linemen could be headed to Columbus. Sian Cotton, a defensive tackle from Akron, and defensive end Shawn Crable, from Massilon, are prime for Ohio State. Cotton is looking at several schools, while Ohio State will battle Pittsburgh, Michigan, USC and Miami for Crable.

Two out-of-state defensive ends will give Ohio State a serious look. Stanley McClover, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is now down to three schools: Ohio State, Auburn and Miami. Claude “Turk” McBride, from Camden, N.J., has visited Ohio State and Tennessee. He will take additional January visits, but McBride is still gushing about his November visit to Columbus.

The word out of Kentucky is that Louisville sensation Michael Bush could land with the Buckeyes. Bush is a terrific athlete who got votes for All-State at five different positions. He is an incredible wide receiver who now wants to play quarterback. Ira Guilford, another standout in the secondary, is leaning toward Ohio State over Notre Dame, Penn State, Rutgers and Syracuse. Meanwhile, tight end Jamesley Jean, if offered by OSU, could end up a Buckeye as well.

Wesley Jefferson (LB), Jesse Holley (WR) and Mo Dampeer are three more high-profile recruits who will pay visits to Ohio State this month.

There are plenty of big-name players on Tressel’s board and only a handful of spots open. Any way you look at it, Ohio State should cash in big on its national title.

Leak talks about commitment

The wait is over. Quarterback Chris Leak finally made his decision public, as the five-star quarterback from Charlotte (N.C.) Independence High School committed to Florida over USC, Florida State, Texas and Iowa.

"My heart was at Florida," Leak said. "They made an honest commitment to my future. Honestly, all five schools were great, but I just went with my gut feeling. Florida's offense is very similar to mine, even the terminology. When I went down there for camp, everything just seemed to click with them and coach Ed Zaunbrecher. I know with preparation and hard work, everything will work itself out. I just want to go to Florida and help my teammates win a national championship."

Ironically, Florida lost its franchise quarterback in Rex Grossman the day before Leak's verbal. Leak, however, sounded as if he would have liked to spend a year learning under Grossman.

"Honestly, I made my decision before [Grossman] made his,” Leak said. “I would have loved to have learned from Rex and let him be my tutor. That would have been awesome. Rex leaving in no way affected my decision. I will just work hard and try to help the team win. If I have to wait for the opportunity and redshirt, that's fine too. I just want that chance."

As popular as he is, Leak could be a recruiting magnet for Florida over the course of the next month. In fact, Leak has already hit the recruiting trail.

"I have talked with some of the guys and found out what schools they liked," Leak said. "I told them I hope they come to Florida but to also follow their heart."

Leak had an amazing high school career. He threw for 15,593 yards and 185 touchdown passes, a national high school record. Along the way, he won three straight state titles. Leak, at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, was also named the MVP of a pair of prep all-star games, the Shrine Bowl and the All-American Bowl.

-- Jamie Newberg,

California's Mr. Football begins trips

Whitney Lewis, who was recently named Mr. Football in California, will take official visits the next three weekends.

Lewis, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound wide receiver from Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure won't have to go too far from home this weekend for his first official visit of the year.

"I'm going to USC this weekend," Lewis said. "After that, I have Miami [on Jan. 17] and Florida State [on Jan. 24]. Those are the only three visits I have set up, and I could make my decision following my visit to FSU.

"I'm looking forward to all my visits. My mom will be coming with me this weekend, and that's probably the only visit she'll be able to make. Miami is a great team and Kyle Wright is going there and he's a great player. Then Florida State is the school I grew up wanting to play for, and [former California prep star] Lorenzo [Booker] will be hosting me, so that should be cool.

"Right now, I have a lot of people telling me different things. I just want to take my trips and do what I feel is best for me. All of the schools are good schools and have a lot to offer. I know I can't go wrong with any of them, so when my trips are done, I'll weigh the pros and cons of each school and do what is best for me."

-- Greg Biggins,

Big-hitting linebacker has two favorites

Fred Sparkman is one of the top six linebacker prospects in the South for the class of 2003. He is technically sound and very quick to the ball. He has tremendous instincts and is the South's second-best hitter behind Wesley Jefferson. It looks like his decision will come down to North Carolina or Michigan.

"North Carolina and Michigan are right there together," Sparkman said. "I go to North Carolina for my official visit this weekend. I just want to go where I feel the most comfortable."

With a visit to Michigan already under his belt, North Carolina is hoping to convince this standout linebacker to stay in the South.

-- Scott Kennedy,

Defensive tackle switches commitment to Houston

John Harrell, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive tackle, has switched his commitment from Texas Tech to the University of Houston.

"[I switched] for several reasons," he said. "The defensive tackles coach at Tech [Ron Harris], is now the defensive coordinator at Houston. And I really like who my defensive tackle coach is going to be [Oscar Giles, former Texas defensive end and SMU assistant]. And I love [new Houston head] coach [Art] Briles. He's also bringing a couple of his assistants from Stephenville, coach [Phillip] Montgomery and coach [Randy] Clements."

-- David Garvin,

N.C. State gaining ground with Howard

Marcus Howard is one of the top linebackers in the south this year, and he has been paying attention to what happened in the postseason to his three favorite teams.

"I think Georgia still has a slight lead because of the bowl games," Howard said, "but N.C. State is starting to move up a lot, too, after the way they beat Notre Dame. I still like Georgia, Clemson and N.C. State the best right now, in that order, but they're all pretty close together. I don't know if I'm still planning on visiting South Carolina or not. Coach [Charlie] Strong [who left for Florida] was recruiting me for them."

Howard visits Clemson this weekend. The Tigers were an early favorite, and they will try and move back in to the top spot.

-- Scott Kennedy,

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