LOS ANGELES After the Ohio State football team took an informal tour of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Friday evening, the team and coaches mad the long trek up a concrete ramp from the fi eld level to their waiting quartet of charter buses.
They were serious and somber- looking as the Buckeyes contingent approached a crush of reporters waiting outside a 15-foot chain link fence to speak with coach Jim Tressel. No funeral dirge was playing in the background, but it might have been appropriate.
The always stoic and business like Tressel announced then that Heisman Trophy candidate Chris Beanie Wells would not play against the top-ranked Trojans in last night s showdown with the No. 5 Buckeyes.
That was not what Ohio State fans wanted to hear. The guy who had shredded rival Michigan for 222 yards and a couple of touchdowns in last year s win would not be in the huddle for the team s biggest non-Michigan, non-BCS game in years.
Wells injured the big toe on his right foot in a season-opening rout of Youngstown State, and then sat out last weekend s clumsy win over Ohio. He had been rehabbing the injury for two weeks, and had told his coaches mid-week that he was ready for 45 carries against USC. Tressel said it was a diffi cult decision to keep Wells out of the game.
It is because these kinds of opportunities for kids don t happen every day, Tressel said. He was working so hard. He was getting treatments 50 times a day. I just think my job is to keep the best interests of each youngster in mind. I think it s the right thing to do, as I listened to the medical people.
The 6-1, 237-pound Wells, who was on the Ohio State sideline last night in sweat pants, his OSU jersey and a baseball cap, took the decision hard, Tressel said. But the Ohio State coach stressed that a healthy Wells for the long-term is vital, since it is still mid-September, with at least nine games to play after USC, and a fourth straight Big Ten Conference championship still out there to pursue.
Beanie is such a great kid, Tressel said. If looks could kill, he fought me. But Beanie is a team guy. If you tell him to come out of the game so you can put somebody else in, he comes out of the game and somebody else runs the ball.
Tressel said he had told the team of his decision just before they made that long walk out of the Coliseum.
We ve got good kids. They are going to do the best they can do. Everyone does different things with their minds, Tressel said about the potential psychological impact of a Beanie-less Buckeyes.
But it s real and I thought it was important that our guys know that that s what I felt we needed to do. Everyone will handle it their own way.
BUTKUS MEETING: As the Buckeyes made their Friday evening walkthrough of the L.A. Coliseum, they got a visit from Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus. The former Chicago Bear star met with Ohio State All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis, who last year won the Butkus Award as the nation s best at that position.
PRYOR PRAISE: Count USC coach Pete Carroll among those who are impressed with the potential of Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Carroll said the Trojans would prepare their defense to face Pryor, who had had just spot duty behind starter Todd Boeckman.
This guy is really a big-time player, Carroll said. They ve thrown the ball with him, ran the ball with him. He can do both. He definitely has a style that s different than Todd Boeckman. They present different situations and problems for you. We anticipate seeing him and we have to prepare for both.
REMATCH TALK: Well before this game kicked off, there was significant speculation that these two could end up seeing each other again in the Rose Bowl, as the eventual champions of their respective conferences.
If the Buckeyes and Trojans win their conferences, but don t make the BCS title game, they would play in Pasadena.