Wells Ready To Be The Man

A year ago, Chris Wells came into camp as a wild card, knowing any production he could provide would help an already potent Ohio State offensive attack. In 2007, Wells is now the guy in the Buckeye backfield. The bruising back has adjusted accordingly and is ready after a grueling offseason.

There must be something wrong with Larry Grant.

The senior linebacker for Ohio State clearly has a different definition of fear than most people. To most people, the thought of getting in front of Chris Wells, all 230 pounds of him running downhill, knees and elbows flying, would be the stuff of nightmares. But that isn't how Grant sees it.

"It doesn't scare me at all," Grant said. "You know, that's the name of football. That's how you play. You gotta hit somebody. That's what we do. I'm never scared.

"He doesn't scare me at all."

Even in the macho world of football, Grant might be in the minority. The running back that his position coach, Dick Tressel, compared to Jim Brown is ready to be unleashed as a starter a year after sharing the backup role behind Antonio Pittman with Maurice Wells. And in case the Big Ten is wondering, he's ready to hit some people along the way.

"I love contact," Wells said. "That's what football is all about. It's a contact sport."

It was that love of contact that served Wells, well, well during his freshman season. After coming out of Akron Garfield as Scout's No. 1 ranked tailback in the country, he quickly found a role as Ohio State's short yardage back.

By season's end, he had carried the ball 104 times for 576 yards and seven touchdowns. He lost just 11 yards, a testament to his ability to go forward. One of those touchdowns was a 52-yard score against Michigan, an incredible run in which he spun out of a tackle in the backfield, broke two tackles at the line and outran three defenders to the end zone.

But not everything went swimmingly. In the national championship game against Florida, the most frustrating play to many fans was a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter in which Wells was stuffed. He also had a fumbling problem during the season that saw him put the ball on the ground four times with OSU losing it all four times. With the adversity came strength.

"I just took it as a learning experience," Wells said. "I wasn't holding the ball properly and I really wasn't focused. I just took everything as a learning experience from my freshman year and am ready to move on this year."

The first step to moving on came with a challenge from the coaching staff. With a new quarterback and new wide receivers taking over starting roles, Wells could be the linchpin to Buckeye success in 2007. The coaching staff let him know that right away.

"That challenge started immediately after the Florida game," Wells said. "I knew that this season I was going to have to be that guy and put myself in a position where I could carry the football as much as the coaches and the team want me to."

After being held out of spring practices because of an ankle injury, Wells was one of the more dedicated Buckeyes during summer workouts. He arrived at 6 a.m. for the first group of workouts, went to class, grabbed lunch and was back at 3 p.m. to work out until 7 with the last group.

When asked if he wondered what he had gotten himself into with his workouts with director of football performance Eric Lichter, he didn't hesitate.

"Every day," he said with a laugh. "The workouts with Coach Lichter are so hard. You were either going to go hard or you were going to go home."

Color Tressel among those who are impressed with the results of Beanie's efforts.

"He looks really good," said OSU's seventh-year running backs coach. "There's no question that he's a year older and has had a tremendous opportunity to work with big guys in our offseason program and he's done that with a commitment to be the best that he can be. That looks really good to me."

Now, when asked Thursday if he wants the ball and the load that comes with it, he simply answered, "Of course I do."

According to linebacker Marcus Freeman, that's bad news for Buckeye opposition.

"It's not fun hitting him five times in practice so I couldn't imagine going against him 20 times in a game," Freeman said. "Hopefully Beanie hasn't even shown a glimpse of how good he can be. We see in practice how good Beanie can be and we hope that he shows that on the field this year."

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