<
>

Wells' presence boosts OSU on, off field

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's been 43 days since Ohio State's last game, but running back Chris "Beanie" Wells hasn't spent all this time preparing one of his patented pre-game pep talks.

"It ends up happening at the moment," Wells said. "I don't pre-write anything. I just say how I'm feeling."

Wells' off-the-cuff style resonates with his teammates, who look forward to hearing from their emotional leader, especially before big games like Monday's showdown against No. 3 Texas in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Fox, 8 p.m. ET).

"Very emotional," guard Steve Rehring said of Wells' speeches.

"He might have been more fired up than anybody in our locker room for the [USC] game," fullback Brandon Smith said, "and he didn't even dress."

Wells will be in uniform Monday night as he tries to help No. 10 Ohio State knock off Texas. Much of the focus this week has been on Ohio State's 28 seniors, but Wells also could be playing his final collegiate game before entering the NFL draft, where he's expected to be one of the first two running backs selected.

The setting and the situation will only add fuel for a player who thrives on big games and big moments. Add in the fact that Wells is as healthy as he's been since sustaining a foot/toe injury in the season opener, and Ohio State could have a better chance that many think.

"He is a difference maker," Ohio State senior tight end Rory Nicol said. "He does something to the morale of the team. It's like [cornerback] Malcolm [Jenkins] always says, a little spark kindles a great fire.

"Often times, he's that spark."

Wells needs to ignite an Ohio State offense that struggled to put up points for much of the season. Texas ranks fourth nationally in scoring (43.9 ppg) and ninth in total offense (476.4 ypg), so for the Buckeyes to keep pace, they'll need to control the clock and the line of scrimmage with Wells.

The Longhorns rank second nationally in rush defense (73.6 ypg), but they've faced mostly pass-oriented teams and backs that don't resemble the physically imposing Wells (6-1, 237 pounds). Texas freshman linebacker Ryan Roberson (5-10, 226) has emulated Wells in practice, but defensive coordinator Will Muschamp admits Roberson "isn't exactly Beanie. He's little Beanie."

"We haven't seen a back like him," Muschamp continued. "He's a big, strong, physical, downhill, one-cut guy. That's again hard to simulate, having a guy like him who carries the ball as well as he does."

Wells has been at his best in big games, particularly last season, when he rushed for 1,609 yards. He continued the trend this fall with a big night against Wisconsin on Oct. 4 (168 rush yards, TD).

Though he was slowed significantly by Penn State (season-low 55 rush yards), he finished strong with 417 rushing yards and four touchdowns in three November games.

If the Buckeyes' beleaguered offensive line steps up, odds are Wells will come through.

"I definitely feel like I'm an emotional guy, especially in big-game-time situations," Wells said.

The Fiesta Bowl certainly qualifies as one, and Wells will try to give Ohio State the psychological boost it needs.

"He's a guy that demands respect," Nicol said. "He demands great play from everybody. He demands it from the offensive line and he demands it from himself, above and beyond anybody else."