First, the good. The running back known as "Beanie" practiced for the first time since suffering a foot injury against Youngstown State in week one, and wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell termed him as being ahead of the curve as far as his recovery.
Now, the bad. Ohio State Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman described Wells as being at 75 percent of his normal capacity during Wednesday's practice, and that might not be enough to guarantee that the preseason Heisman Trophy candidate will be able to play Saturday night against USC (8 p.m., ABC).
"He got a lot of work today," Bollman said. "It was more than he's had. I guess we'll see how sore he is tomorrow and assess him the next couple days and see how things go from there."
Head coach Jim Tressel said on his weekly radio show that Wells carried the ball about 20 times during the practice but that he did not do so in live situations. The Buckeyes practiced in shells and not full pads on Wednesday.
Short of a "miraculous recovery," Bollman said, Wells will not be 100 percent for the Trojans. The question now is at what level he needs to perform in order to be able to be counted on this weekend in the biggest non-conference game of the season.
Perhaps a note of concern is the fact that Wells evidently looked less healthy as the practice went on.
"If I could put a number on it, I'd say he was 75 percent or a little better," Tressel said on his show. "You could see he got a little sore as the practice went on. I would say the key is how sore is he tomorrow? If he's not sore, then he'll make a big jump Thursday, Friday and Saturday."
Bollman said he would not be able to speculate as to whether or not Wells would play if he remained at 75 percent healthy, adding again that the soreness would be the telltale sign.
"He wasn't going 100 miles an hour, but he was going pretty good and getting a feel for the (injury) and for his shoe," Bollman said.
Wells had to undergo a special tape job on his right foot, Bollman said.
The mere sight of Beanie in a uniform sent a jolt through the Buckeyes, Bollman said.
"I think probably everybody on the team thought it was nice to see him back in his uniform and get out there and work with everybody," Bollman said. "You're just hoping he can get into a situation where he can help us and contribute in some situations."
However, it appears that even a return to the lineup will not mean a fully healthy Wells in the backfield. The question now is how effective a semi-healthy Wells is compared to any of his fully healthy backups.
The return of a healthy Beanie to the lineup would be a substantial boost to an OSU offense that has sputtered without him in the game. Three tailbacks combined to rush for 113 yards on 26 carries – two yards more than Wells gained on 13 carries against YSU.
His impact affects the passing game as well.
"Any time that you can have a great running back in the backfield, they're going to gang up on you and put the extra hat in the box," OSU wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell said. "That will give us single coverage on the outside, so we love when he's in there."
That determination will not be made for a few more days.
"We really won't know until game time Saturday night (if he will play)," Hazell said. "If I know him, he'll be out there ready to go."