LOS ANGELES - The continuing saga of running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and his injured big toe took another twist yesterday when Ohio State coach Jim Tressel classified the Heisman Trophy candidate as "doubtful" for tomorrow's game against top-ranked Southern California.
Just before the Buckeyes boarded their charter flight in Columbus to head west, Tressel said Wells had been held out of the morning's practice due to soreness. The
junior from Akron had taken about 20
carries in practice Wednesday, his first contact work since the injury occurred in the season opener Aug. 30 against Youngstown State.
"We're hopeful, but he didn't work this morning. He had more soreness than we had hoped for," Tressel said.
Whether it's gamesmanship or customary fluctuations in the healing process - or some combination of both - the reports on Wells' condition have covered the full spectrum. In exaggerated terms, the accounts on Wells have gone from him hobbling around in a protective boot, to his readiness to challenge Usain Bolt in the 100 meters, and then to him possibly parking in the handicapped lot at the L.A. Coliseum for tomorrow's game.
About 10 days ago, Tressel said Wells had improved significantly with intense therapy on his injured foot.
"Beanie will be fine," he said then. The next day members of the Ohio State coaching staff said Wells readiness was "a
Wells did not dress for last weekend's game against Ohio University, and by Tuesday Tressel seemed very upbeat about his star running back's condition, adding that Wells had told his coach that we was ready to carry the ball 45 times against USC.
"I thought he ran better than I thought he might," Tressel said about the Monday workout. "I feel good about him."
After Wednesday's practice, offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said Wells was "75 percent-ish, something like that."
Tressel's comments before departing for California seemed to knock Wells down a couple of notches on the availability list.
"I'm listing him as doubtful," Tressel said, adding that the question he is confronted with right now does not involve how much Wells might play against the Trojans.
"[It's] probably whether he plays," Tressel said. "We've just got to see how this next 24 hours feels and if he can move around. And the thing we've been saying all along is being able to move around and being functional in the job you have to do are two different things."
If Wells does not play against USC, Tressel indicated that Ohio State would utilize a "committee" approach to manning the tailback position, with redshirt freshman Dan "Boom" Herron, sophomore Brandon Saine and senior Maurice Wells.
"Now, if someone starts really feeling it - no matter who that is - you would use them," Tressel said. "But we're pleased with all those guys."
And no Wells would not mean the Buckeyes have to scrap a major portion of the playbook, Tressel said.
"It may take away some of the things that Beanie has repped so much, but on the other hand, we weren't real fancy with Beanie," Tressel said. "We ran the base stuff, and that's when you feel like you're good, when you can run the base stuff. We can't start over, with all that we've practiced in the spring and the fall."
LEFT BEHIND: Just before boarding one of the buses that took the Ohio State travel party to the airport in Columbus, Tressel lamented the fact that all his players were not making the trip.
"That's one of the hardest parts about the first away game is that we've had about 105 guys out there practicing every day, and now 35 of them are walking out the other door," Tressel said, referring to the players who did not make the travel squad. "It's disappointing, but it's part of what we do."
Tressel said freshman defensive lineman Nathan Williams, whose mother lives here in Los Angeles, was included in the travel group, along with freshman defensive end Keith Wells from Georgia. Backup
linebacker Tyler Moeller is injured and did not travel with the team.
L.A. SCHEDULE: Once the
Buckeyes arrived in Los Angeles, Tressel said the plan was to take the team to the Coliseum, site of tomorrow's game, to let the team get familiar with the facility, and walk off the stiffness from the four-hour flight.
Today, the team does not have a practice planned, and Tressel said that after a morning visit from a local community group, he intended to get the Buckeyes out of the hotel and take them to one of the sights around Los Angeles "to kill the morning a little bit."
Tressel said that after lunch at the hotel, the Buckeyes would
follow their normal Friday pre-game routine.
TOUGH ON TOP: Southern California enters this game ranked No. 1, and it has been formidable in that position. USC has held the No. 1 position in the poll 83 times in its history, and gone 66-5-2 in games played as the top-ranked team.
Ohio State has gone 4-8 over its history in games played against the No. 1 ranked team. The last time the Buckeyes faced a No. 1 was in the championship game of the 2002 season, when Ohio State knocked off top-ranked Miami.34.05349 -118.2453