Most people don't know Chris Wells from Dawn Wells. One cavorted around Gilligan's Island as Mary Ann. One is about to cavort through Big Ten defenses as The Next Big Thing.
If he's lucky.
|A recruiting guru says Chris Wells is 'Maurice Clarett without the baggage.'|
All the potential, all the power, all the promise.
Is anyone else noticing some slight similarities to a certain unlucky No. 13? Native son of Ohio. Projected freshman sensation. The difference, perhaps, in a championship for the Buckeyes.
"He's Maurice Clarett without the baggage," said recruiting guru Tom Lemming.
Whoa. There, he said it. Turn on the angst faucet, Columbus. Feel free, Buckeye Nation, to retract the high fives for now. The program, the state, the nation, really, have been here before.
Clarett's spectacular fall from grace would frighten a Wallenda. Baggage? It's a cautionary tale doused with kerosene. Wells comes with great character references, that's true -- 3.0 student, probably great with kids and cats trapped in trees, too. But pardon us skeptical columnists for being, well, skeptical columnists.
Again, the disclaimer: This is nothing personal against Wells. The product of a working-class family, he is one of 10 children. His dad works in shipping at a metal factory. Mom drives a van for the school district.
There isn't a hint of pretense about the kid. Neither parent attended college. Two siblings have been to college. One dropped out, according to one report, because the family couldn't afford it.
But out of habit from covering national signing days for the last 20 years, I've developed enough muscle memory to lock my jaws to keep from drooling over can't-misses.
Instead, here's a couple of helpful hints from me to you. Ignore them if you want, Chris, but it would be wise to use that utter failure in recent Buckeye history as a reference.
First, do not argue with assistant coaches on the sideline. No matter how many yards you cover, you're a kid, a teenager. Show some respect.
Do not call the school administration "liars" (see the 2002 Fiesta Bowl).
It would be advisable, no matter how good you are in '06, not to take on the NFL and declare for the draft after your freshman year.
But if you do, please, please, please do your research. Do not hire a lawyer and/or agent whose credentials are basically a degree from Brown Mackie College. Oh, and be prepared to run better than a 4.8 40 at the combine.
|SportsLine.com's top 10|
|Current recruiting rankings|
|3. Notre Dame|
|4. Penn State|
Just stay away, Chris, from unscrupulous runners. You'll recognize them as the Chess King-outfitted mouth-breathers who start conversations, "Pssst, kid..." a lot. If you're any good, they'll be around soon enough.
Oh yeah, almost forgot. Dismiss any idea of trumping up a used-car theft report with the cops. And never, ever rob people outside a Columbus bar where everyone knows you.
Simple rules to follow, it would seem. But you'd be surprised, Chris, how your predecessors can miss. Or at least not fulfill their signing day promise. There are recruiting busts every year in the inexact science you are currently experiencing. Take Fred Rouse. Last year at this time Rouse was the No. 6 player in the country headed to Florida State. This native son (from Tallahassee!) with 4.4 speed basically had to cross the street to find fame.
Last week he was kicked off the team. Turns out the kid had a little Maurice in him. Rouse's first strike was a one-game suspension after arguing with coaches during a loss to Virginia.
Oh, and there's Ryan Perilloux, who said he wanted to compete for the Heisman as a freshman quarterback. We're not sure, but maybe Perilloux watched the Heisman ceremony on TV. Otherwise, he cooled his heels as a freshman at LSU. And with JaMarcus Russell returning as the starter, there's no guarantee Perilloux will see the field in '06.
Forget last year, let's look at the rivals.com top 10 list from 2004. For every Adrian Peterson -- No. 2 in Heisman voting as a freshman after being the nation's No. 1 recruit -- there is an Xavier Lee. While not a bust at Florida State, Lee was the No. 10 player in the country two years ago and is currently backing up rivals' No. 88 player -- Drew Weatherford.
Is that being too harsh on a kid with two years of eligibility left? Not when fans have been conditioned to expect an immediate return on their recruiting dollar.
It's about to get a lot more complicated, Chris. It won't be easy, even when it's all going your way. College, money and fame sometimes do funny things to people.
Check with rivals.com's No. 37 player in 2001. Like you, he was the best prep running back in the country. Like you, he's from Ohio. Like you, he went to Ohio State.
Maybe it's simple as this: Don't wear No. 13, Chris. It's unlucky.