Wells Excited for His Chance On OSU Defense

After a productive high school career, Keith Wells was billed as a major get for Ohio State. As a freshman, however, injuries helped keep him from showing his abilities. At least one of his teammates is expecting big things from a now-healthy Wells as camp gets underway for the Buckeyes.

It took less than three dunk attempts for Doug Worthington to realize that Keith Wells is an athlete.

After reporting to Ohio State for his freshman season, Wells quickly bonded with Worthington and fellow defensive lineman Nader Abdallah. The three were sitting around when Worthington came up with a bet: if Wells could pull off a 360-degree windmill dunk while wearing jeans, boots and his jacket, Worthington and Abdallah would buy him lunch.

Three attempts later, Wells had helped himself to a free lunch.

"The first time he barely missed," Worthington told BuckeyeSports.com. "The second time he did it but we told him that he didn't do it all the way, so then he did it again so cleanly we had to take him to lunch. He's an athlete. He's a freak."

It was a glimpse of the potential Buckeye fans saw only in limited doses last season. A native of Gainesville, Ga., Wells appeared in three games and totaled six minutes' worth of action but did not record a statistic.

His freshman campaign was then fully derailed by something he had never previously experienced during his career: injury.

"I dislocated my shoulder twice so I ended up having to go in and have labrum repair surgery," Wells said. "I had that in January right after the Texas bowl game. Everything is good now."

The experience of sitting on the sidelines and watching his teammates play was a frustrating one, Wells said.

"It wasn't discouraging, but at the same time it had you down at moments because you want to be out there participating," he said. "You want to feel like a part of the team and you can't really do that from the sideline or in a yellow jersey. It motivated me to go ahead and get healthy and get back into action."

It also meant that Buckeye fans have never seen the potential that followed Wells to Columbus after he surprised the nation by picking OSU instead of the likes of Tennessee, Notre Dame or Florida State. Initially, Wells had committed to the Seminoles but wound up changing his mind and reopening his recruitment.

A four-star prospect, Wells was rated the No. 16 defensive end in the country by Scout.com after recording 75 tackles and 7 sacks as a high school senior.

It was not the freshman experience Wells was hoping for. He remained limited during spring practice, but the 6-5, 210-pound athlete said he will be full-go when fall camp begins August 10th.

"As far as the rehabbing stage, you've got to get back to the point to where you feel confident enough where you can go out and play full-tilt and you're not favoring it at all," he said. "You can just go out whether it hurts or it's sore you can't let it limit you. You've got to go out and play hard and play like it was never hurt."

The Buckeyes have no shortage of talented defensive linemen on this year's roster, and the position figures to be one of strength for the team. Wells said he is primarily working at the team's Leo position – a spot OSU fans know is primarily manned by Thaddeus Gibson, a feared pass-rusher who could jump to the NFL after his junior season.

Wells also figures to have been passed by classmate Nathan Williams, who earned the outstanding first-year defensive player award from the coaching staff after recording 18 tackles – 4 for loss – and 2 sacks in nine games.

Despite the crowded depth chart, Wells said he views the situation as a positive one for both himself and his teammates.

"I feel like once I get into the mix, it won't matter who's in front of me or who's on the defensive line because I feel like I'll be able to contribute," he said. "At the same time, we do have a lot of depth and there's going to be a lot of competition. I look at it as a way to compete and get better every day."

Asked what he feels sets himself apart from the other defensive lineman, Wells cited his attention to detail and willingness to work on the little aspects of his game to improve. Those are traits Worthington said he has picked up on.

"He's a great body for a young guy," Worthington said. "He has a great get-off and he uses his hands well without learning too much technique. He had a great base in high school. Just seeing his potential and all the upside he has, it's great to be able to see him develop as a young man."

Wells said he is glad he did not redshirt because the limited experience he earned last season will help catapult him to greater things this season.

"I feel like this year is definitely my year as far as getting my name out there and trying to be a household name," he said. "I'm working hard. This year is definitely going to be the year for me as far as my coming out year."

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