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Published: Sunday, 1/8/2006

Buckeyes gaining another sensation in Wells

COLUMBUS - Chris Wells is a rarity.

He is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound tailback with sprinter's speed.

He has been clocked at 4.48 in the 40-yard dash.

Wells, who is expected to sign a binding letter of intent with Ohio State next month, can run over you, or he can dart around you.

Most recruiting services rate Wells, from Akron's Garfield High School, the No. 1 player in the Buckeye State and the No. 1 running back in the nation.

Scout.com is even higher on Wells, ranking him the country's No. 1 prospect overall.

East running back Chris Wells of Akron Garfield scored three TDs and was named MVP in the All-American Bowl. East running back Chris Wells of Akron Garfield scored three TDs and was named MVP in the All-American Bowl.

Yeah, he's that good.

"He's better than everybody else in the country," said Bob Lichtenfels, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com. "He really stands out in a crowd. He looks like an NFL running back right now as a senior in high school."

Duane Long, the recruiting editor for Bucknuts.com and editor/publisher of Ohio High magazine, said he has never seen a runner as big as Wells have so much power and speed.

"He's as complete a back as I've seen in Ohio in my 25 years," Long said. "He's every bit as good as Maurice Clarett, and he's right up there on a par with Robert Smith.

"Chris Wells is a slashing type of runner, more so than a power back.

He's hard to bring down. He will run you over if he gets a chance, but he's more into dipping and dodging and shaking and baking."

Wells, who played in yesterday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, obviously is a special talent.

He is a Parade first-team All-American, and a USA Today first-team pick.

In 10 regular-season games this year, Wells was pretty much untouchable and unstoppable.

Despite playing for a very mediocre 5-5 team, he rushed for 2,134 yards and 27 touchdowns on 223 carries as a senior. He averaged 9.6 yards per carry.

For his career, Wells piled up 5,232 yards and 61 touchdowns. He also caught 37 passes for 408 yards and three scores.

Wells plans to graduate early from high school and enroll at Ohio State in time for spring drills, just like Clarett did four years ago.

Wells won't turn 18 until mid-August, just before the start of the Buckeyes' regular season.

Lichtenfels said he would be surprised if Wells - who surprised everyone by giving his oral commitment to Ohio State last February despite having scholarship offers from Michigan and Oklahoma - doesn't challenge Antonio Pittman, from Akron Buchtel, for playing time this fall.

"I don't want to take anything away from Pittman - he had a good season, better than most figured he would - but I think Chris is a great talent who is going to get a chance to play some right away," Lichtenfels said.

"I think he's going to make Pittman better, and I think he's going to make him bust his tail to keep his job."

Now that's a mouthful.

Pittman finished the season on a very strong note.

His 60-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes of the Fiesta Bowl sealed Ohio State's 34-20 victory over Notre Dame last Monday.

Pittman finished with 136 yards, giving him 1,331 for the season.

That is the 10th-best total in school history, and the second-best by a sophomore behind Archie Griffin's 1,577 yards in 1973.

Before we get too carried away with Wells, let's not forget that recruiting is hardly an exact science.

There are as many busts in each class as can't-miss prospects.

For instance, Clarett, linebacker Mike D'Andrea and quarterback Justin Zwick were considered the elite of Ohio State's 2002 recruiting class.

Clarett was a one-year wonder, D'Andrea has been injured more than he has been on the field and Zwick has rarely played since losing the starting job to Troy Smith last season.

For now, Wells is by far considered the brightest star in Ohio State's 2006 class.

"Honestly, Chris Wells is Maurice Clarett without the baggage," Long said.

That alone should make Wells a huge hit.

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