List also includes junior college player

NEW YORK -- Six high school players and one junior college defensive back joined Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett and USC wide receiver Mike Williams Friday on the NFL's list of nine applicants cleared for early eligibility in the draft.

After Clarett and Williams, the best player would figure to be Ronnie McCrae of Pasadena (Calif.) City College. However, McCrae, a defensive back, had no interceptions for a team that went 0-10, according to The Washington Post.

If not McCrae, perhaps the best is offensive tackle Ken Petitt of Redford High School in Michigan. He was an honorable mention selection on the Detroit News 2002 all-Detroit football team.

None of the high school players is among the top 25 college prospects by position, according to Tom Lemming, editor of Prep Football Report and ESPN.com's recruiting guru, who said Friday he had heard of none of them. And, no wonder. They appear to be more suspect than prospect.

Running back Ethan Mitchell of Springdale, Md., and Flowers High School, never played for the varsity, while running back Joe Banks is from New Directions Academy High School, a Baltimore school for developmentally disabled children, according to the Post.

Quarterback John Belisle of Capac (Mich.) Community High School and defensive tackle Earl Fields of Appling County High School in Baxley, Ga., were not on their school's 2003 rosters, while wide receiver Joe Lee of Tacoma, Wash., lists Gates High School, an alternative school that doesn't even have a football team, the Post reports.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the list was based on those who submitted written applications by the March 1 deadline. Applicants were given 72 hours to withdraw. Most scouts and league officials believe the jump is far too great for most underclassmen and even the most talented high school players.

Williams, who played two seasons in college, is expected to be a first-round pick while Clarett is thought to be a potential second- or third-rounder.

Clarett went to court to challenge the NFL's rule preventing players less than three years out of high school from entering the draft, and a federal judge ruled in his favor.

"I don't think we do any extensive checking [of the applicants] because there's no point to it based on the ruling," Aiello said. "We can't limit who's eligible under this ruling."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.