COLUMBUS, Ohio - USC game week is finally here and Ohio State appears to be on the verge of getting star tailback Chris Wells back from the foot injury that kept him out of the game against Ohio University.
Wells has not practiced since leaving the field in the third quarter of the Buckeyes' season opener against Youngstown State, but coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday at his weekly press conference that he expects to have Beanie back in the lineup against the No. 1 Trojans Saturday in Los Angeles.
"I have a lot of confidence in our doctors and trainers and strength guys, and not only was he running well, but they put him on the bike and wore him out," Tressel said. "He's been in the underwater treadmill and anything we can do we're doing and I feel good about it."
OSU did not have Beanie available Monday when they took the practice field for the first time since struggling to hold off the Bobcats in a 26-14 win. Tressel said he was impressed, however, with the way Wells ran around on the sideline yesterday and that today and tomorrow will be big days for the 240-pound back.
"I thought Beanie ran well yesterday. In fact, he probably ran better than I thought he might," he said. "I think the big thing will be Tuesday and Wednesday work and will that create soreness."
Friend and teammate Lawrence Wilson watched Wells working on the sideline Monday and feels confident No. 28 will be back in the lineup this week.
"I think Beanie's feeling good," Wilson said. "I saw him outside running yesterday and he told me he was going to play on Saturday so I believe he's going to play."
The Buckeyes practice again this afternoon and they will go two more times before boarding a plane to Los Angeles Thursday afternoon. Tressel is not expecting Beanie to participate in full-go practice today, but he will be doing some things he has not done in over a week and should be ready to return to the field as early as Wednesday.
"What I'd like him to do, and what the trainers are going to let him do, is they're going to let him do a lot of football things without people around and then tomorrow be actually in the fray," Tressel said.
There is some concern that with a bad foot and all the time he has missed, Wells might not be able to play at the level he was performing at before the injury, however, Beanie seems ready to carry the load in what is likely a make-or-break game for Ohio State when it comes to their chances of returning to the BCS National Title game in 2008.
"He said to coach (Jim) Bollman and I walking into the meeting room on Monday that 'I'm ready to carry the ball 45 times on Saturday'," Tressel said.
It sounds like an absurd number, but Beanie has developed a reputation of doing whatever it takes for his team and Wilson would not be surprised to see him follow through on 45 carries.
"I could definitely see that happening because he's a competitor and he wants the ball, so he will do good things once he gets the ball," Wilson said.
The offensive line will have to perform much better this week than they did Saturday, as only two players graded out winning performances against the Bobcats up front.
"He's not going to carry it 45 if he's not effective, but his effectiveness will be in large part based on what the other guys do," Tressel said. "If they block people, he can be effective."
Brandon Castel is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.