Last week, the Buckeyes saw the official beginning of the Terrelle Pryor era. The dual-threat quarterback who entered the program after being ranked as the nation's No. 1 recruit as a senior took over the reins and directed OSU to a 28-10 victory against visiting Troy. With his speed and skill set, he figures to give opposing defenses more than a few problems.
This week, though, Pryor is slated to receive a boost in the backfield with the return of Chris "Beanie" Wells, the team's top tailback from one season ago. A bruising tailback who was touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate as the season began, Wells has instead been relegated to the bench for the last three games as he has attempted to recover from an injury to his right foot.
Now, the two players will be united on the field for the first time as starters – and the Buckeyes are excited about the possibilities.
"We can do two different things where defenses have to get prepared for both, an inside run and a spread attack," junior offensive lineman Jim Cordle said. "When we're running zone reads with Beanie and Terrelle, who are they going to defend?"
That is the question OSU head coach Jim Tressel and his staff members are hoping will keep opposing defensive coordinators awake at night. Under center, Pryor is a threat to throw the ball deep or keep it himself and run around the end. His presence forces teams to spread their defense out in order to try and contain him.
Such an alignment would seemingly leave more room for a bruising tailback like the 6-1, 225-pound Wells to bully his way across the line of scrimmage and pick up big yardage.
"I think it adds to our arsenal," Tressel said. "He's a good back. He can do some things so exactly how that will unfold, I don't know that we've gotten into that predicting yet."
One option that the Buckeyes have already been working with is having Pryor running the option with Wells, Cordle said.
How effective the offensive packages can be will depend on how close to fully healthy Wells finds himself on game day. He likely will not assume a complete workload as if he has been playing the last three weeks, but two of his linemen in Cordle and senior Alex Boone said he looked to be fully healthy during practice on both Monday and Tuesday.
"It's exciting, and it was a little painful too at times yesterday," Cordle said. "We didn't have full pads on yesterday and we were going about 75 percent and he was going 100 percent. He ran on my back a couple of times. We're definitely excited to have him back."
The return of Wells could mean fewer carries for Pryor, who carried the ball 14 times for 66 yards – both season-highs for the freshman – against the Trojans. Although Tressel would not divulge the game plan, he admitted that frequently handing off to Wells would be a possibility for two reasons.
One is that Wells carrying the ball would decrease the wear and tear on his quarterback, and the other is that Wells is simply a talented athlete who merits plenty of touches.
It all goes back to what Boone said this team's offense believes it can hang its hat on: running the football.
"That's what we've always been good at, just pounding the ball," he said. "Beanie being out hurt us a little bit but I think (Dan Herron) stepped up and (Brandon) Saine and they did a great job. With Beanie back I think we're going to have to show people that we're the running team that we used to be."
That, in turn, might be easier with a player like Pryor and his ability to stretch opposing defenses.
"I think it's going to be an excellent combination between the both of them," Boone said. "Both of them can run it and I think teams are going to have to prepare for it. At the same time we're going to be ready to do some different things."
It all depends on whether or not Wells is ready to go come Saturday. Tressel deemed him probable for the contest as of Tuesday.
In Wells' absence, Herron has emerged as the primary ballcarrier and has responded well. A redshirt freshman, Herron leads the team with 212 rushing yards on 48 carries and is one of four players to score rushing touchdowns.
Wells presents a different kind of back and a different sort of look, Boone said.
"I think it's a lot more than we've had in the last couple of weeks," he said. "People thought that we'd have to go to the air more because of Beanie being out and we still tried to pound it, but Beanie being back we will show people that we still are a running team."
A running team with its best tailback returning to the lineup to be paired with a dual-threat quarterback in the pocket, that is. If all goes according to plan, the Buckeyes will be in position to regain that title.