COLUMBUS, Ohio - The triumphant return of Chris Wells to the Ohio State lineup is once again on hold, as the star tailback was listed as doubtful on Thursday for Saturday's primetime matchup with No. 1 USC.
It has been nearly two weeks since 'Beanie' injured his right foot in the third quarter of OSU's season opener against Youngstown State. He was helped off the field and carted to the locker room in what looked like a potentially season-ending injury. The X-rays came back negative and the prognosis was a big toe injury that left Wells day-to-day.
After sitting out the Buckeyes' week two game against Ohio University, Wells returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since injuring the foot. He went through drills and carried the ball 20 times as the Buckeyes were hoping to get him ready to play Saturday in Los Angeles. Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said Wednesday night that the most important thing would be to see how sore he felt Thursday after sleeping on the foot.
"I'm listing him as doubtful," coach Jim Tressel said. "He had more soreness this morning than we hoped for. A late afternoon practice followed by a morning practice, we're hoping that's a little bit of the reason why."
Bollman listed Wells in the 75 percent range after practice Wednesday, but internally the staff was hoping he would make improvements Thursday and be significantly closer to 100 percent healthy.
"We were hoping that he would edge up closer to 90 (percent) as opposed to 75 (percent)," Tressel said. "We're going to play it by ear. We're hopeful, but he didn't work this morning."
If the soreness continues throughout the day Thursday and on into Friday, there is a chance the Buckeyes could rule Beanie out for Saturday night as early as tomorrow. It is more likely, however, that Beanie will be a game-time decision against the Trojans Saturday.
"We've got to see how he does in the next 24 hours, how he feels and if he can move around," Tressel said. "The thing we've been saying all along is being able to move around and being functional at the job you have to do are two different things."
If this were any other non-conference game, it is likely Wells would be relegated to the role of cheerleader for the second straight week. Because it is No. 1 USC and because there is so much on the line, the Buckeyes are trying to get Beanie ready to play, but they have said they will not put his health in jeopardy.
"The thing that I've been reminding him of is that it is September, and you've got to treat things as they should be."
Brandon Castel is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.