The Ohio State junior tailback known as "Beanie" has brought home team most valuable player award in addition to three other honors at the team's annual banquet, and he figures to have a big decision ahead of him. Following a junior season that has seen him rush for 1,091 yards despite missing three early games with a toe injury, Wells seems a sure-fire lock to be one of the first players to hear his name called in this year's NFL draft.
That is, if Beanie decides to take flight and leave Columbus after three seasons. Although the decision appears to be a difficult one for a player such as Wells – one who has publicly stated his love to the university and the program dozens of times – his head coach does not share the same viewpoint.
"If it were me, it wouldn't be tough," Tressel said.
Asked if that meant he would head to the pros if he was in Wells' shoes, Tressel replied in the affirmative.
"Shoot yeah," Tressel said. "In my opinion, he ought to be one of the first five guys picked. We haven't had that discussion yet, but I also told him don't bother filling out that NFL sheet, I could fill it out for him. We've always said that if you're going to be a top-round pick that you may want to think about going."
Although Tressel said Wells' focus is solely on the team's Fiesta Bowl matchup with Texas, the fact remains that the game against the Longhorns very well could be the last time Buckeye fans see No. 28 toting the ball from the backfield.
Following the team's 42-7 waxing of Michigan in the final regular-season game of the year, Wells was noncommittal about his future in the Scarlet and Gray, saying he had not thought about the issue.
"I haven't even thought about it," was all he had to say on the topic.
Should he depart, Wells will head to the NFL knowing he has had a significant impact on the OSU program. In addition to his MVP honors at the annual team banquet, Wells was named the team's offensive player of the year, the most outstanding offensive back and the outstanding player in the Michigan game.
"He had four awards; he could barely carry them," Tressel said. "He was up there for a while and smiling from ear to ear. It was a pretty neat thing. Beanie's a special player."
The general consensus is that running backs are not well served by returning for another season of college football. Players at that position have a limited shelf life before the constant pounding begins to take a toll and production declines. Throughout his Buckeye career, Wells has battled injuries to his wrist, hamstring, ankles and now his toe while still amassing 3,276 yards – good for fourth-best all-time at OSU.
"Beanie runs so hard and so many guys take that guy low, his shins and knees have got to kill all day," OSU junior wide receiver Brian Hartline said. "I don't know how he's feeling, but I feel like a running back in the NFL is short-lived. You're either blocking one play or getting hit the next, and you're getting hit on every play."
That, in addition to the fact that Tressel encourages players who know they will be a high-level draft pick to leave after their junior seasons, would seem to push Wells out the door following the Texas game.
But Hartline – who will also be making a similar decision in a matter of weeks – said he is not convinced that Wells is leaning one way or the other.
"I don't know," Hartline said when asked if Beanie would stay. "It's going to be a tough decision because he's a Buckeye through and through. I'm sure the degree will probably come into play, whether he's finished or close but it's a tough decision for him. I'm glad I'm not him."
Wells' passion for this team was most evident while he missed three games early in the season. On the sidelines, Wells was arguable the most animated Buckeye, pumping up his teammates and typically waving a towel in the air.
Despite his thought that Wells should go pro, Tressel echoed Hartline's thoughts.
"I think Beanie energizes by the way he carries the ball, by the way he leads, by the passion he has to succeed," the coach said. "He's one of our most graphic locker room guys. He means a great deal to this team."
Meaning a great deal to the team might not be enough to coerce Wells into one final go-round, however.