AS DOMINATING as Ohio State was in its 34-20 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl (page 42), junior quarterback Troy Smith couldn't help but wonder if the 10-2 Buckeyes would have been better this year had his freshman roommate, Maurice Clarett, still been one of their running backs. "I'm sure everybody would have followed him if he was still here," Smith said last Thursday. "He's a guy that would lead you into battle. It's sad. You can't do anything about it. But if Maurice was here, we'd be a much, much more powerful team."
At almost the exact moment Smith and the Buckeyes began celebrating their win on Monday night, Clarett surrendered to police in Columbus, where he was wanted on a robbery charge. Early on Jan. 1 Clarett allegedly approached a couple outside a club, revealed what the victims say was a gun tucked into his waistband and told them to empty their pockets. At that point the woman who owns the bar wandered over and heartily greeted him. Then, police say, Clarett lifted the woman in an embrace, carried her to his SUV, set her down and drove off-after getting only a cellphone from the couple. On Tuesday he was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery, for which he faces up to 20 years in prison. (Clarett, who was not asked to enter a plea, posted a $50,000 bond and was released.)
Clarett's decline began three years ago--at the Fiesta Bowl. Before the game Clarett, then a star freshman running back, ripped OSU for not allowing him to travel home for the funeral of a murdered friend. Four days later Clarett scored the winning TD in the national title game against Miami, but that was his last competitive game. He was subsequently suspended for receiving improper benefits, and he also falsely alleged that $10,000 in goods were stolen from his car. He unsuccessfully challenged the NFL's draft-entry policy, and by the time he became eligible, in '05, he was a bigger, slower back than the one who ran for 1,237 yards and 16 TDs at OSU. Denver took him in the third round but cut him during training camp. Steve Feldman, Clarett's agent, said his client "recognized that he needed to prove he could play" in NFL Europe. Consider his travel plans canceled.