Healing Wells Has An Eye On This Fall

After an injury-plagued yet still-spectacular sophomore season, Chris Wells has spent the offseason on the mend. With multiple ailments getting closer to 100 percent, he is looking forward to another monumental year - or two - as a Buckeye.

What does a man with a 1,600-yard season already under his belt want to improve during spring practice in preparation for his junior year of football at Ohio State?

"Everything," answered Buckeye Chris "Beanie" Wells.

Then, similar to the way he turned simple isolation plays into lengthy touchdown gallops at Michigan and in the BCS National Championship Game last season, the burly tailback expanded on what his modest opening.

"First and foremost, being a leader on the football field," he said. "There's always things you can get better at if you sit down and just review the past.

"My main thing is making everything more precise and more consistent."

He also hopes to be healthy after spending his sophomore season in 2006 with nagging left ankle and left wrist injuries.

Though the ankle got much of the publicity during the season, the wrist has turned out to be farther reaching.

Wells had surgery to repair it in the offseason and still had the limb in a cast Thursday when he met with reporters at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

The wrist is the reason Wells has been held out of live drills this spring, too. Coaches fear Wells could fall on it or get it caught up in a defender while he works on pass blocking.

Wells said he never paid much attention to the hand ailment last year because of the excruciating pain in his ankle. Ironically, both injuries occurred on the same play last spring when Wells was the victim of a tackle by the combination of Larry Grant, James Laurinaitis and Kurt Coleman.

The coaches were unaware of the severity of the wrist injury, too, until it turned up in an x-ray after the season.

Wells expects injuries to be relegated to the past, however.

He said the ankle feels great and hopes the wrist's return to 100 percent will not be far behind.

"I'm really excited to be going into the season being healthy and getting a chance to get out there with no problems at all," he said.

He estimated he was around 70 percent of what he could be last season, and OSU running backs coach Dick Tressel guessed that was an average.

"I think on some of those touchdowns runs he was 100 percent," the coach said, suggesting other, less-successful plays could have been closer to 50 percent.

No matter his level of health, Wells still gets credit for gaining 1,609 yards on 274 carries in 2007. He scored 15 touchdowns and averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

The only Buckeyes to rush for more yards in a single season are Archie Griffin, Eddie George and Keith Byars.

One might think a player with such credentials would welcome the chance to avoid practice, especially in the spring when there is no reward of playing time looming at the end of a week of hard work on the practice field, but Wells does not feel that way.

He is not worried about the risk of another injury, either.

"Not at all," he said. "It's always important to practice. Perfect practice makes perfect. I've got to get out there and just get better each and every day."

"I knew full well I would have to hold him back," Tressel added. "I knew that was going to be the case because (Wells could say), ‘I played all year last year with a broken wrist. Why can't I play this year?' Because we'd like to get it fixed, Beanie. We're getting close."

As for how Wells can improve, Tressel said he and the rest of the offensive staff will play a role by making sure he gets the ball more often.

"I don't think he can get any better when he has it in his hands, to be quite honest with you," he said with a laugh. "I think he's good. Maybe we'll be in a situation where he'll be a little sharper more often a little longer and at other aspects of the game and we'll be smiling more."

For 2008, simply returning to health is not a sufficient goal for Wells, however. He wants to win a Heisman Trophy (or two) and help lead the team to a national title (or two).

That particular total could come as a surprise to some who would assume the exceptionally gifted Akron native will take his talents to the NFL in 2009, the first year he is eligible to do so under current league rules, with one year of college eligibility remaining.

Wells, though, said he was intent on turning the events of this past winter, when several possibly NFL-ready Buckeyes passed up NFL riches to return to school, into a trend.

"This is not going to be my last year. I'm going to be here for four years."

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