Wells expected to return to lineup; QB Pryor to start vs. Minnesota

Ohio State starting running back Chris "Beanie" Wells will return from injury Saturday against Minnesota barring any setbacks this week in practice, Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday.

Wells participated fully in Monday's nearly two-hour practice and no longer is experiencing the lingering soreness in his right big toe, which kept him off the field in wins over Ohio and Troy and a 35-3 loss to top-ranked USC. He suffered the injury in the third quarter of the 14th-ranked Buckeyes' season opener against Youngstown State.

"He did everything that everyone else did and I thought gained a lot more confidence as the practice went on," Tressel said. "I expect him to keep trudging forward. Unless he takes a step backwards, I expect him to be out there [against Minnesota]. If the game were [Monday], he could have given us limited duty."

His teammates were happy to see him doing all the drills at Tuesday night's practice.

Asked how Wells looked, offensive lineman Alex Boone said, "Fast. Very fast. He was running all over the place. He looked physical and fast. He looked like nothing had happened to him."

Wells will participate in more intense practices Wednesday, with Tressel saying Wells' performance will determine his workload Saturday. Redshirt freshman Dan Herron would start in Wells' place if Wells cannot go.

"As the inflammation dies out and the healing occurs, it's just the natural progression of less and less soreness," Tressel said.

Freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor was named by Tressel as his definitive starter for the Minnesota game, replacing fifth-year senior Todd Boeckman.

Pryor gives the Buckeyes a mobile quarterback who can avoid a collapsing pocket and transform a loss into a gain. He escaped from severe pressure on several occasions to frustrate Troy defenders and perpetuate drives.

The Buckeyes also experimented up front with several other fresh faces on the offensive line. Jim Cordle, who had started the last 16 games at center, moved to left guard to fill in for the injured Steve Rehring. Another true freshman, Mike Brewster, then took Cordle's spot.

Brewster wasn't the only youngster in the rotation up front, either. True freshman J.B. Shugarts and sophomore Andrew Miller also saw action.

Suddenly, the huddle that Wells returns to doesn't bear much resemblance to the one he left.

Boeckman, the fifth-year senior who led the Buckeyes to a second consecutive outright Big Ten title and the national championship game a year ago, played just two plays against Troy and is now cemented to the bench as a backup to Pryor.

With the cat-quick Pryor on the field at the same time with Wells, who rushed for 1,600 yards a year ago, defenses will be in a quandary.

"Who are they going to defend?" Cordle said.

Asked what it would be like for a defense to face both Pryor and Wells, safety Kurt Coleman just shook his head.

"Scary," he said. "Scary."

Tressel said Pryor did not handle himself like a 19-year-old who had yet to attend his first college class.

"He knows where everyone is," Tressel said. "He's got a great ability to keep his head up, a calmness about him."

The presence of Wells -- if indeed he is healthy and ready to play -- should take some of the pressure off the young quarterback.

"Yesterday in practice [Wells] was running up my back and he was saying, 'Let's go!'" Cordle said with a laugh. "He almost ran me over on one play. He's ready to go. You can see how bad he wants to play."

Just two years ago, Tressel reined in quarterback Troy Smith so he wouldn't run so much, increasing the chances he would get through the season without being injured. That approach worked wonders. Smith almost never missed a snap while leading to the Buckeyes to a perfect regular season and winning the Heisman Trophy.

Reminded of that on Tuesday, Tressel was asked how he would try to preserve Pryor throughout this season.

"Hand it to the tailback more," he said.

With Wells now back in the fold, that'll be a popular alternative.

Adam Rittenberg covers the Big Ten for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.