Buckeyes convene without star tailback

Updated: August 5, 2003, 5:41 PM ET

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Defending national champion Ohio State opened its doors to returning players on Tuesday. The only one missing was the team's biggest star.

Sidelined because of investigations by the NCAA and a university committee, running back Maurice Clarett was nowhere to be found as the Buckeyes reported for preseason workouts.

Most of Ohio State's players said the absence of the record-setting sophomore tailback was barely noticed. Others were more perceptive.

"You can't sit here and say that not being here doesn't have an impact," tight end Ben Hartsock said. "Because if he didn't need to be here, none of us would be here."

Quarterback Craig Krenzel said he was purposely staying away from reading or watching much on the saga involving Clarett's academic and NCAA problems.

"We pay attention to what we need to do and focus on what we can do," Krenzel said. "If he's here, he's here and he's a great football player. If he's not, we've got a lot of other great football players and we're going to find ways to win without him."

Clarett set a record for Ohio State freshmen last year by rushing for 1,237 yards. He scored the winning touchdown in the second overtime of the Fiesta Bowl to give the Buckeyes a 31-24 win over Miami, securing the school's first undisputed national title since 1968.

He missed all of spring workouts because of a shoulder injury.

Earlier this summer, a teaching assistant at Ohio State contended that Clarett walked out of a midterm exam last fall and later passed the course when he was given an oral exam. Ohio State named a 10-person committee to investigate.

Then the NCAA started looking into an April incident in which Clarett's car -- on loan overnight from a car dealership -- was broken into. In the police report, Clarett said he had lost more than $6,000 in clothing, cash and stereo equipment in the theft. He later acknowledged that he had exaggerated his losses to police.

The NCAA is investigating Clarett's use of the 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

At almost the same time that Clarett was supposed to be checking in with the rest of his teammates at a hotel near campus, his attorney said Clarett was focusing only on returning to the Buckeyes in time for the Aug. 30 opener against Washington.

"The reality is Maurice Clarett wants nothing more than to play college football and be back with his teammates," Columbus lawyer Scott Schiff said in a phone message to The Associated Press. "That's the objective of the university and everyone around him who is working to overcoming some of the inquiries."

Ohio State officials announced on July 30 that Clarett would be held out of all preseason workouts "until and unless" he was cleared. On Tuesday, sports information director Steve Snapp cautioned writers to not say that Clarett was "suspended" from the team.

Athletic director Andy Geiger said late Monday night that he did not know when Clarett might rejoin the team.

"There are things that need to be resolved and he will practice when he's cleared to practice," Geiger said.

Coach Jim Tressel was expected to address Clarett's status when he meets reporters on Wednesday night after team photos are taken at Ohio Stadium. Clarett is not scheduled to be included in the team picture.

Ohio State has two experienced tailbacks on the roster, juniors Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall. Both filled in as Clarett missed three full games and parts of two others with injuries during the Buckeyes' 14-0 season.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index