Jard Work: Not Jumping Around

Is Chris "Beanie" Wells really a Heisman candidate? What does Jim Tressel think about his special teams units, and how is Ohio State's scout team preparing the first-team units for action this weekend? Who will be jumping around Saturday night -- and who will not? The answers to these questions and more are in this week's edition of Jard Work.

The goal was clear for Chris Wells as he headed into his junior season. The bruising Ohio State tailback who had burst onto the national scene as one of the most powerful running backs in the country had a stated goal of bringing home a second Heisman Trophy in three years for the Buckeyes.

But a foot/toe injury suffered in a season-opening game against Youngstown State when the outcome was already well decided kept him out for three games – including the USC game – and ruined those chances.

Or did they?

In the eyes of the player known as "Beanie," those Heisman hopes are alive and well.

"There's a lot of great athletes out there and I'd like to think that the Heisman is not out of my reach," he said. "A lot of times people get to thinking the Heisman is all about numbers or a team's record, but when it all comes down to it it's who is the best player in college football, plain and simple."

By that logic, then, Wells feels a solid finish during the final eight games of the regular season will help him prove his point – even if he admitted that he will not be 100 percent healthy as he attempts to play through pain.

"It's all about who's the best player in college football, not who runs for the most yards or most touchdowns," he said. "Who's that dominant player who you can honestly say is the best player on the field in the game?"

Asked if he can be that player despite the injury, Wells did not hesitate.

"I honestly think so," he said. "I honestly think I can be the best player in college football."

Robo Not Jumping: Every Big Ten stadium has its own quirks. Indeed, most stadiums across the country have something unique that lets visiting teams know where they are playing.

As has been reported ad nausea this week, the Wisconsin Badgers like to jump around. Specifically, they will do so as the fourth quarter begins and House of Pain's "Jump Around" begins blaring from the speakers. Ohio State's players, none of whom have ever played at Wisconsin, have been shown a video on what to expect as they head into enemy territory.

"We always want to make our guys aware, aware of everything that they're getting into, the environment, the hotel we're going to stay at," OSU cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said. "You always want to give them as much information as you can so you're not surprised by anything."

Video or not, though, it is hard to imagine some of these Buckeyes focusing on anything but the game. At least, that is how senior wide receiver Brian Robiskie saw it.

Asked a question about the "jump around," Robiskie quickly dismissed it and delivered a dose of perspective.

"I'm excited about the game," he said. "I'm not going to be looking in the stands watching people jump around."

Not-So-Special Teams: Heading into this season, OSU head coach Jim Tressel placed a special emphasis on improving the team's production on special teams. Specifically, Tressel wanted to see the Buckeyes improve from a return standpoint.

Consider that goal halfway met. Through the first five games of the season, OSU is first in the Big Ten with an average of 13.85 yards per punt return. However, that total is somewhat tempered by the fact that the Buckeyes are first in the conference but 36th in entire country in punt returns.

Kickoff returns are an entirely different story, however. OSU ranks 108th out of 119 Division I teams, averaging 17.45 yards per attempt.

That total is even worse than last year's 17.65 average that ranked 117th in the country. Asked to compare and contrast the two units, Tressel cited a few factors for the discrepancy.

"I don't think we've done quite as good up front on our kickoff returns as we need to," he said. "Now we've had some penalties on our punt returns, which are disappointing, and we'd be doing even better. We've done a pretty good job of applying a little bit of pressure to the punter and maybe not letting them have a free swing at it and we've got veterans back there catching the ball.

"But I think simply on kickoff returns, we've got to do a better job on that front wave than we've been doing."

Keep Your Head Up! The last time the Buckeyes traveled to Wisconsin to play a game at Camp Randall Stadium, tales abounded of how a rowdy Badger crowd let the opposing team know how it felt about OSU.

That is, they were not very happy with them. Heading home smarting from a loss that snapped their 19-game winning streak, the OSU players also began to report some more physical violence directed toward them.

In Tressel's eyes, however, those are stories that seem to grow with each passing year.

"I never heard it during the game or shortly after the game," he said. "How much is folklore and how much is fact, I'm not sure."

Tressel added that former OSU defensive back Tyler Everett was in his office Oct. 2 telling stories of being hit with coins encased with marshmallows during the 2003 OSU-Wisconsin game.

"If I were a guy that had a helmet, I'd wear it," Tressel said.

Bend It Like Beckam: This week, the OSU coaches have spent a significant amount of their time figuring out how the Buckeye defense will be able to stop Wisconsin tight end Travis Beckum.

Johnson, who spent 2004 as a coach on staff with the NFL's Cleveland Browns, compared Beckum to Pro Bowl wideout Kellen Winslow, now in his fifth season with the Browns.

"I had a chance to spend a year with (Winslow) up at the Browns and (Beckum) is very athletic like Kellen is right now," Johnson said. "Probably not as big as Kellen, but definitely athletic and fast. He runs really good routes and he can go up and get the ball."

To simulate those abilities this week in practice, the Buckeyes have looked to two player: senior former walk-on J.D. Larson and freshman wide receiver Jake Stoneburner.

Stoneburner is a player who seemed pegged for early playing time this season before suffering a stress fracture to his shin and finding himself redshirting. His skills on the scout team make him the latest in a long line of talented players to spend time on those units under Tressel.

"The better your scout teams are, the better your team's going to become," Tressel said. "We've used the example many times when Santonio Holmes and Roy Hall were the wideouts and Troy Smith was the quarterback against our defense. That's a pretty good scout team. They're all in the NFL."


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