COLUMBUS, Ohio – There was an energy in the air Wednesday in Columbus as Ohio State tailback Chris Wells returned to the practice field for the first time in nearly a week and half.
'Beanie' injured his right foot in the third quarter of OSU's 43-0 win over Youngstown State in the season opener and had been limited to light running this week in practice after missing last week's game against Ohio University. After doing more 'football related' things yesterday in practice, Wells finally put on the pads and re-joined his teammates on the practice field Wednesday as the Buckeyes prepare for their primetime matchup with No. 1 USC Saturday night.
"He was out there testing it today and he got a lot of work but he wasn't going 100 miles an hour," offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said. "He was going pretty good, though, and getting a feel for things."
Wells had not put much pressure on his right foot since feeling a pop in the big toe area on his 13th and final carry against YSU. Bollman said it was good to see his star back out there carrying the ball and going through drills after missing the first game of his college career. He looked good but certainly has a ways to go before the Buckeyes take the field in Los Angeles.
"I would say 75 percent-ish, something like that. He got a lot of work today, certainly more than he's had," Bollman said. "I guess we'll see how sore he is tomorrow and assess him over the next couple days."
Bollman also admitted to sensing a new level of energy and intensity from the rest of the team, especially the offense, when No. 28 returned to the lineup this afternoon.
"I think probably everybody on the team was, you know, nice to see him back in his uniform and get out there working with everybody," he said.
Wells had a special tape job on the foot today and possibly even a specialized shoe to keep as much weight as possible off the ball of his big toe. Bollman said today was good but it will be more important to see how he feels tomorrow after the foot has had a full night to react to all the stressors it was put through Wednesday.
"We'll have to see how he really is because this is a different kind of injury (than he's had before)," Bollman said. "Let's ask him tomorrow how his foot feels."
Even if things go according to planned, and Beanie feels better Thursday than he did Wednesday, the Buckeyes are still not expecting him to be at full strength Saturday against the Trojans, barring anything short of a miracle.
"The chances of him being 100 percent are not real high I wouldn't think, unless there is a miraculous recovery here," Bollman said. "But who am I to prognosticate things."
Fortunately for OSU, Beanie racked up over 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns last season on a foot that was considered to be at 75-80 percent. The injuries are different, but the toughness it takes to play through something like this has certainly been demonstrated.
Either way, assistant head coach Darrell Hazell is expecting Beanie to be in the starting lineup when the OSU offense takes the field for the first series Saturday.
"We really won't know (for sure) until game time Saturday night," Hazell said. "If I know him, he'll be out there ready to go."
Brandon Castel is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.