January 2, 2008

Wells absorbing knowledge from coaches

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. - It doesn't take more than a few minutes of watching the East squad of the Offense-Defense Bowl practice to know what a collection of talent it is. At every position, the level of athleticism impresses.

It doesn't take much longer to see the slender defensive end with the team's longest dreadlocks is more than just an athlete - Keith Wells is also perhaps the most coachable player on the field. On any collection of all-star talent, there are bound to be a few egos that get in the way of the coachability score, and others who listen, but perhaps with just one ear.

Wells not only listens to coaching, he embraces every word. He is a sponge. And a gifted one at that.

"I really didn't start playing football until last year, my junior year," said Wells, a soft commitment to Florida State from Gainesville, Ga. "That's one of my strong points - I'm a very quick learner. I know I'm pretty new to this game, and I'm taking in everything I can."

At times, Wells has even initiated instruction with a question, and in every instance, he addresses the coach as "sir." Wells credits his mother for his worth ethic and his recognition that football "can be taken away at any moment."

East defensive coordinator Pat Thomas, a former NFL All-Pro, has taken notice.

"I think we've got all the guys [listening], but Keith in particular is very attentive," Thomas said. "He's got the ability to listen and comprehend, then go and convert it to the field."

According to Thomas, Wells and the East's other starting end, Earl Okine represent the strength of the entire defense. Wells is currently committed to Florida State, but he sounds more like a guy who is headed to Ohio State.

"There's a lot going on inside Florida State that seems unstable, and I'm just looking for some answers right now," Wells said. "I really want to know who my coach is next year."

On the Buckeyes, the three-star recruit had this to say: "Jim Tressel has called me and my mom every week. That to me is one of the most impressive things I've dealt with in the whole process, period. For the head coach of a top-five program to call that much, that shows how bad the program really wants you. ... It's the small things [like that] that really stand out to me. Every school is going to have top-notch weightrooms, top-notch facilities. But it comes down to the character of the coach and the people that are going to be around you."

Wells said he will take five official visits before a final decision, with Tennessee and perhaps Clemson still to come. He also has visited Auburn, and figures to have a decision in the days following his last visit. Nicknamed 'Predator' because of his lengthy hair, Wells also flashed a strong sense of humor when a follically-challenged coach remarked on Monday that he would "like to have hair like that."

"You can buy some, but I don't know if you can grow any," Wells joked.

He'll be here all week.

And the only people happy to see him leave might be the offensive tackles from the West.

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