Big Ten: Maurice Wells

While Ohio State's compliance department continues to review used-car sales involving athletes and their relatives, concerns about one talked-about transaction can be put to rest.

The Columbus Dispatch reports Tuesday that former Ohio State defensive end/linebacker Thaddeus Gibson did, in fact, pay for a car he purchased in 2007. An older title on the vehicle shows Gibson paid $13,700 for a 2007 Chrysler 300C that he bought from salesman Aaron Kniffin at the Jack Maxton dealership. The current title on the car shows the purchase price at $0, as originally reported, but Gibson told the newspaper that he's still making payments on the car and the new report verifies it.

Although Ohio State isn't out of the woods, the truth about Gibson's situation certainly is a good sign. Having been on several radio shows to discuss the Ohio State situation since the initial Dispatch report came out, I can say the Gibson car sale was brought up more than once.

Another tidbit in Tuesday's Dispatch report is that Kniffin didn't sell a car to the mother of former Ohio State running back Maurice Wells. The car, registered to Wells' mother and step-father, was used as a trade-in when Maurice Wells bought a car from Kniffin in 2006.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State loses a large and decorated senior class, as well as three underclassmen (Chris "Beanie" Wells, Brian Hartline and Donald Washington) who would have been starters in 2009. There are holes on both sides of the ball, but Ohio State's ability to consistently produce elite defenses eases concerns there.

An offense that ranked 76th nationally last fall will be in the spotlight this spring. Here's the strong point and weak point for the Buckeyes.

Strongest position -- Defensive line

Key returnees: Junior end Cameron Heyward, senior end Lawrence Wilson, junior end Thaddeus Gibson, senior tackle Doug Worthington

Key departures: Tackle Nader Abadallah (33 tackles, 6 TFLs, 4 pass breakups).

The skinny: The Buckeyes' linebackers have led the way for some time on defense, but things could change this fall. Almost everyone returns on the defensive line, and Ohio State should be particularly strong at the end spot with Heyward, Wilon and Gibson, who made a huge difference in the second half of 2008. After finishing seventh in the league in sacks last season (28), the Buckeyes should see their total rise. Other strong spots include safety and wide receiver, where Ohio State gets a lot younger but potentially a lot better.

Weakest position -- Running back

Key returnees: Sophomore Dan Herron, junior Brandon Saine

Key departures: Chris "Beanie" Wells (207 carries, 1,197 yards, 8 TDs), Maurice Wells (39 carries, 129 yards)

The skinny: Injuries dogged Beanie Wells throughout his career, but he was a force when healthy, a three-tool back (size, speed, agility) who struck fear in opposing defenders. Herron performed decently in place of Wells last year, but his size raises some concern. Saine came to Ohio State with a ton of hype but hasn't been able to stay healthy. Help is on the way this summer with freshmen Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde, but the position looks a bit unstable right now. Cornerback also could be a weak spot after the losses of Washington and Thorpe Award winner Malcolm Jenkins.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Do you like defense? If so, stick around a while.

For all the talk about Terrelle Pryor and Daryll Clark, big-game Beanie and the Spread HD, both defenses have dominated this one so far. Thaddeus Gibson adds a major playmaking presence to Ohio State's defensive front, which has shut down Evan Royster and limited runs up the middle. Penn State's defensive line is doing the same thing with Chris "Beanie" Wells, as defensive tackle Jared Odrick and linebacker Navorro Bowman tallied tackles for loss. Wells has six carries for five yards. Not good.

Some interesting developments on offense, despite no points. Penn State is using Derrick Williams a lot in the backfield, and the senior wideout gained 13 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Ohio State curiously started senior Maurice Wells but replaced him with Chris Wells on the second play. Pryor continues to be at his best on the run, but he's having a rough time finding open targets down the field.

This game could very well be decided by special teams, and both punters (A.J. Trapasso and Jeremy Boone) have looked impressive so far. Yes, I just praised the punters.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The calls for change started around 9 p.m. ET on Sept. 13, as Ohio State fans watched the same group of players step onto a national stage at the L.A. Coliseum and have the same type of disheartening result.

Buckeye Nation wanted to see the kids play, and they're starting to get their wish.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor will make his fourth career start Saturday against Purdue (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET), and he won't be the only freshman playing a prominent role.

Center Mike Brewster has earned a starting spot up front along with veterans Alex Boone and Jim Cordle. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel will rotate three players into the two spots on the right side of the line.

A more interesting spot to watch is wide receiver, where heralded freshmen DeVier Posey and Lamaar Thomas should get an extended look against the Boilers. Dane Sanzenbacher will miss the game with a concussion, and Ray Small hurt his knee at Wednesday's practice and could be limited.

Ohio State needs to upgrade its passing game beyond the Brians -- Robiskie and Hartline, who have combined for 35 receptions and six touchdowns this season -- and both Posey and Thomas could provide a lift. It will be interesting to see how they fare against an improved Purdue secondary.

Another promising young player, sophomore running back Brandon Saine, could see more time Saturday as Daniel Herron sits out with a concussion. Tressel said today that starter Chris "Beanie" Wells should be fine after experiencing right foot soreness last week at Wisconsin, but Ohio State would be wise to keep Wells to fewer than 25 carries, if possible.

"Both Mo Wells and Brandon Saine have to really step up this week," Tressel told reporters Thursday. "Chris Wells is getting healthier. ... [He] had a little bout with the flu this week, so hopefully, maybe that day's rest because of the flu helps the foot even more. With Beanie, we're hoping that now we're back in the shape where he's a 20-plus carry guy. That would be a goal. But Mo and Brandon, particularly this week, have to be ready to go."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said today that reserve running back Dan "Boom" Herron and reserve wide receiver Dane Sanzenbecher will miss Saturday's game against Purdue (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET) after sustaining concussions last week at Wisconsin. 

Herron was reportedly briefly knocked out after taking a blow from Wisconsin safety Jay Valai. Sanzenbacher also had to be helped off the field after taking a shot from Valai and several other Badgers defenders late in the first half. 

"There's all kinds of grades of concussions," Tressel said on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference.
"I don't know the exact diagnosis. We're very conservative in college football when it comes to head injuries. We need to make sure those kids are ready to go."

Herron had most of the carries during the three-game absence of Chris "Beanie" Wells. He ranks third on the team in rushing (262 yards), while Sanzenbacher is fourth in receiving with 10 receptions for 105 yards. 

Wells was extremely sore after the Wisconsin game, but Tressel said the junior ran well at Sunday's light workout and should be fine for Purdue. Maurice Wells and Brandon Saine will serve as Wells' primary backups against the Boilermakers.

Checking in with ... Alex Boone

September, 24, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

When Ohio State selected its four captains last month, left tackle Alex Boone didn't seem too disappointed to not be among them. Boone pointed out that he joked around too much to sit at the captain's table. The 6-foot-8, 312-pound senior is definitely entertaining, but he's also brutally honest, making him a media favorite. Boone didn't hold back Tuesday, ripping Ohio State fans for booing quarterback Todd Boeckman last Saturday against Troy.

 Matthew Emmons/USPresswire
 Alex Boone knows the Buckeyes still have a lot to play for.

I spoke to Boone later that night and he sounded off on several topics, including Terrelle Pryor's rapid rise, Ohio State's subpar offensive line play, the USC aftermath, the possible return of running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and whether he regrets passing up NFL millions to stay another year in Columbus.

Terrelle's been named the starter now. What has been the reaction on the line? I know a lot of you guys are close to Todd. Has it been easy to embrace Terrelle so far?

Alex Boone: Absolutely. We would never not embrace him. He's our quarterback. Whoever's back there, we'll take care of them. That's our thing. We've got to protect, and that's one thing we need to work on and do a little bit better, protecting. Him back there, he's another quarterback, he's a great person and we'll follow him.

Was it obvious to you right away that there wouldn't be a rift in the locker room? Sometimes people side with one quarterback over the other.

AB: A lot of the guys were more surprised to see [Terrelle start] last week. But coach [Jim Tressel], whatever he wants, he does, and we'll block for whoever's back there.

You mentioned the protection issues up front. As a line, how would you grade yourselves at this point in the season as a group.

AB: I'm going to be completely honest right now. I'm going to say this and I'll probably get in trouble, but we would probably get an 'F' if I were to grade myself and the line. We need to step up and we really need to start straining and holding that line of scrimmage and start giving guys time. We have great wide receivers, but they don't have time to get open. We have a great quarterback, and he doesn't have time to throw it. So we really have to push ourselves to hold for another second.

Is there any explanation for that? You're veteran linemen, you know each other, you've played next to each other for a while.

AB: It would probably be sometimes our technique is off or sometimes we're not off the ball right away. A lot of times it's just being lazy. And that's so terrible to say because it's a football game and you should always be up for it, but sometimes it just doesn't happen like that. So I think we really need to get a fire under our rear and kick it into high gear and start blocking.

Do you think it was maybe that you had done it so long, that you look to your experience maybe too much, you don't have the same fire you had as a freshman?

AB: Oh, absolutely. Sometimes you sit back there and you're like, 'Oh, I can muscle this guy. I can manhandle this guy. This is my fourth year. I can do whatever I want.' But that's not the case. There's guys out there. They're young, they're excited, they're strong, they're fast. You always have to show discipline and respect for the other player and you've got to play fast.

(Read full post)

Buckeyes need to get creative now

September, 11, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Jim Tressel might have seen this coming.

When asked about the health of running back Chris "Beanie" Wells during the last two weeks, the ever-cautious Tressel made sure to emphasize that Wells' response to practicing on the injured toe would ultimately determine his availability for USC. Even Tuesday, when he confirmed that Wells would play against the Trojans, Tressel said much would depend on how Wells felt after Wednesday's practice. Well, he practiced and didn't feel good today.

The extent of Wells' next-day soreness might have surprised his coaches, who listed him at 75 percent after Wednesday's workout. But they had to be planning for this outcome.

And that plan had better be creative. It needs to be better than the vanilla offense we saw last Saturday against Ohio U.

Implications of the Wells injury:

  • Terrelle Pryor needs to play more than perhaps originally envisioned. Whether he's ready or not, he brings an explosive element to the Ohio State running game that they might not have with Daniel Herron, Maurice Wells and Brandon Saine. USC hasn't seen much of Pryor, and his size and speed are tough to plan for.
  • An offense often comes together around something like this and performs better than expected. Quarterback Todd Boeckman and wideouts Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie admitted their timing was off last week. My guess is they'll be on the same page Saturday, especially if Chris Wells can't play. The offensive line also knows it needs a better effort without Wells.
  • Saine needs to play more against the Trojans. He was limited during the preseason and had only five carries against Ohio, but the sophomore brings speed and versatility to the offense. Herron will get the first shot if Chris Wells doesn't play, but Saine should play a much greater role.

ESPN's Robert Smith offers his take on the Wells injury situation.

Wells now doubtful for USC game

September, 11, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Bad news for Ohio State today as running back Chris "Beanie" Wells experienced some soreness on his injured right big toe after practicing Wednesday night. Coach Jim Tressel said Wells is now doubtful for the game. Tressel had been concerned all along about how Wells would respond from the injury, but this has to be a bit of a surprise.

Get ready for a lot of Dan Herron, Mo Wells and Brandon Saine on Saturday night at the L.A. Coliseum.

More to come later.

 AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato
 The Buckeyes expect Chris "Beanie" Wells to be in action Saturday against USC.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As Chris "Beanie" Wells watched from the sideline last Saturday, his value to Ohio State's offense rose with every stalled drive and stuffed rushing attempt.

Wells undoubtedly would have provided a lift for the Buckeyes against Ohio. Ultimately, they didn't need him to win the game.

Saturday's matchup against top-ranked USC (ABC, 8 p.m. ET) is a different deal. Wells adds credibility to the Buckeyes' offense whenever he steps on the field, but his worth in big games is especially noteworthy.

Wells finished the 2007 season by playing his best at the most critical points. After Michigan State rallied to make things interesting last year in Columbus, Wells took over in the second half and finished with 221 yards. He had three second-half rushing touchdowns as Ohio State rallied against Wisconsin, and he saved his top performance for archrival Michigan, racking up a career-high 222 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

"He's a fierce competitor," cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. "Whenever the competition goes up, his game plan goes up. He's somebody who's not going to let his team fall down or give up."

The BCS national championship wasn't a shining moment for many Ohio State players, but Wells still finished with 146 rushing yards, including a 65-yard touchdown scamper, against an LSU defense that ranked ninth nationally against the run.

"He's such a great player," Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman said. "He can do so many things for you. He's got speed, he's powerful, he's strong, he can catch the ball out of the backfield. It just helps us out so much."

Wells will play Saturday night at the L.A. Coliseum. His effectiveness remains a question after a right foot/toe injury, but his big-game track record heightens hopes for the Buckeyes.

"He's a great leader," tackle Bryant Browning said. "When he thinks the offense is down, he gets after us. ... Him playing is going to be a real big help. He's a great player, as everybody knows. He makes big plays. Just having him around really helps the team."

But what if Wells can only help in a limited role? Unlike USC, famous and feared for its annual stable of running backs, Ohio State drops off a bit after Wells.

Redshirt freshman Dan "Boom" Herron likely will get the first shot behind Wells on Saturday after taking the bulk of the carries against Ohio. Senior Maurice Wells is the most experienced reserve but hasn't shown the ability to take over. Expect a greater role for sophomore Brandon Saine, who had only five carries last week and missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury.

"I don't think you can diminish the effect of missing 20-plus practices in the preseason that has slowed Brandon a little bit," head coach Jim Tressel said. "That was good to get him back in there, plus the practice time, he picked up this past week and this particular week."

Chris Wells told Tressel on Monday that he wanted 45 carries against the Trojans. That's wishful thinking coming off an injury, and Ohio State has faith in its other runners.

"Danny Herron is an extremely tough kid," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We have other guys that can carry the load."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

 Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
 Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor didn't get much playing time against the Bobcats.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State players insisted their eyes were locked on the players in front of them, not on the bigger, stronger and faster men 2,000 miles away.

They insisted the energy level was high, even higher than it had been before the season opener against Youngstown State. Ohio U wouldn't be a trap game. Letdowns happen in sports all the time, but not to this team, not to these seniors, not to this coaching staff.

"Everybody was ready to play," cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said.

Ohio State emerged with a "W" on Saturday, the 800th in team history, but for the most part, the game had all the ingredients of that L-word.

"It kind of looked like everyone predicted you might look like in between your opener and your big 'national stage game,' which is disappointing because we really needed to make progress," Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel said.

Ohio State made some progress in a 26-14 victory. The defense forced four of Ohio's five turnovers, quieting the takeaway talk. Wideout Ray Small emerged as a big-play threat, and defensive end Lawrence Wilson caused havoc in the backfield.

But the Buckeyes should have accomplished so much more. Taking the field a week before a mega matchup at top-ranked USC, Ohio State had a lengthy to-do list. Most of the items were never crossed out.

"We didn't get better this week," center Jim Cordle said. "We were supposed to."

Added running back Maurice Wells: "We really didn't expect the game to go how it did. It wasn't pretty. We're going to have to make a lot of improvements next week if we want to get a win out there."

This game provided a unique opportunity, particularly on offense. Playing without their best player, running back Chris "Beanie" Wells, the Buckeyes had the opportunity to experiment with different plays and personnel groups.

But when their bread-and-butter schemes didn't produce a comfortable early lead, the script changed. Creativity was tabled to next week.

Perhaps the team's biggest regret involved freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, whose last chance to go through a game before USC was cut short.

Pryor took just three snaps when the game was in doubt, relieving starter Todd Boeckman late in the first quarter. But after misfiring on two passes -- raising questions about his arm and decision-making skills -- Pryor departed and didn't return until the 3:06 mark of the fourth quarter.

Trailing for most of the game, Ohio State opted not to gamble with its prized freshman.

If Saturday's conversation between Tressel and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman is any indication, don't expect to see Pryor in crunch time against USC. Tressel wanted to use the freshman with Ohio State up 19-14 in the fourth quarter. Bollman wasn't so sure.

"I said to coach Bolls, 'Why don't we have Terrelle see if he could take this,'" Tressel said. "And coach Bolls says, 'You sure you want to put him under pressure like that?' And I said, 'When would you like his first pressure to be?'"

It's unlikely to come against Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and the Trojans defense.

Pryor generated the loudest roar of the afternoon when he broke off a 23-yard run with two minutes remaining. But the Buckeyes didn't learn anything new about their talented freshman.

"If Terrelle goes out there, ignites the offense a little bit and makes some plays out there, I'm all for it," Boeckman said. "We needed to get going today. We needed someone to have spark."

Ohio deserves plenty of credit for the Buckeye blues. The Bobcats defenders clogged the middle and put pressure on Boeckman and the running backs.

Despite losing starting quarterback Theo Scott to a left shoulder injury in the first quarter, Ohio maintained its poise behind junior Boo Jackson, who became the latest mobile quarterback to give Ohio State problems. Jackson tossed three interceptions in the loss, but he scrambled for 55 yards and kept several drives alive with third-down heroics.

The Bobcats converted 9 of 17 third-down opportunities, a ratio that must improve for Ohio State to have any chance of beating USC.

"There were a lot of third-and-longs where they scrambled and picked them up," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "You've got to get off the field. It's frustrating."

The tackling will need to tighten up next week, but the Buckeyes defense only gave up one touchdown and can draw confidence from forcing turnovers. The real concerns are on offense.

Boeckman struggled to find a rhythm until late in the third quarter, and a miscommunication with Cordle led to a fumbled snap and an Ohio touchdown, which put the Bobcats up 14-6 and sent panic through The Shoe.

"I gave Jimmy the signal and then I looked up a little bit and he snapped it," Boeckman said. "I kind of wasn't ready for it, and it also was a little high."

Boeckman and Cordle can't afford similar miscues at USC, when crowd noise will be a much bigger factor.

Maurice Wells was asked to speculate on how Trojans players viewed the Buckeyes' performance Saturday.

"They're probably thinking it's going to be a slam-dunk win next week," he said.

The same thoughts might have hurt Ohio State on Saturday. It certainly looked that way.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Chris "Beanie" Wells spent the afternoon in sneakers and sweats, but he still found a way to help his Ohio State teammates.

Unable to contribute with his feet, Wells used his mouth. After a sluggish first half from the Buckeyes' offense, the normally subdued Wells tried to spark his teammates.

"He was actually pretty intense there a little bit," quarterback Todd Boeckman said. "Just getting after us, yelling at us, just trying to cheer us up a little bit."

Buckeyes redshirt freshman Dan "Boom" Herron and the other backs filling in for Wells had him in their ears all game. His message was clear.

"Just keep on running," Herron remembers hearing. "Something's going to open up."

It took the better part of three quarters, but Herron and teammates Maurice Wells and Brandon Saine finally saw some daylight in a 26-14 win against Ohio. The three reserves combined for 113 yards on 26 carries.

Both Herron and Saine found the end zone, and Maurice Wells finished with the best yards-per-carry average (5.3), but it took time for all three to get going. Ohio State finished with just six rushing yards in the first quarter. Then after a Malcolm Jenkins interception put the offense in scoring position, Wells was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the Ohio 29-yard line.

Between-the-tackles runs were a struggle most of the game, and the Buckeyes seemed to have more success on the edges.

"We probably performed maybe B-minus-wise," Maurice Wells said. "We ran the ball well and we protected well when our chances came, but as far as the running backs, it's not really so much what you do. It's the whole offense. The O-line has to block well, we have to run well and hit creases and break tackles. We did well, but not as well as we could have."

Would Chris Wells have made a difference?

"We just didn't execute," center Jim Cordle said. "I don't think having him in there would have made that big of a difference."

Herron expects Chris Wells to be "very good" next week against USC, but if the junior is limited by a toe injury, the Buckeyes' reserves are ready to step in.

"He's a very important part of our offense," Herron said, "but you can't just say that we're done [if he doesn't play]. We have a ton of great athletes on our team and in our offense. Beanie is a big part, but we have a team."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- USC has got to be loving this.

Relaxing in Cali after a dominant performance in Week 1, the top-ranked Trojans are watching No. 3 Ohio State stumble in what looked like a tune-up before next Saturday's showdown at the L.A. Coliseum. Ohio's first trip to Ohio Stadium since 1999 has been a great one so far.

It's hardly panic time yet, and the Buckeyes should come back to win this game, especially if their defense continues to force turnovers. But so far, Ohio State is wasting a critical opportunity to evaluate its entire personnel on offense, namely freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

This was a chance to see if reserve running backs Maurice Wells, Dan Herron and Brandon Saine could carry the load in the case Chris "Beanie" Wells doesn't recover well from a right foot/toe injury. This was a chance to assess Pryor against improved competition before the freshman enters an inferno next week at the L.A. Coliseum. This was a chance to show some creativity in play calling.

So far, the Buckeyes are failing in all areas.

Despite two takeaways by the defense and good field position on several instances, the offense has done next to nothing. The offensive line has struggled to protect Boeckman or open holes for Wells and Herron. Ohio State has 50 rushing yards on 15 carries without Chris Wells after running over Youngstown State last week with him. The close score has prevented coach Jim Tressel from using Pryor, who misfired two pass attempts late in the first quarter. And the play calling has been ultra-conservative so far.

Boeckman seems out of sync, as do his top receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline. Robiskie can't break free from Bobcats defensive backs and Hartline has dropped several passes, including one in the end zone. Junior wideout Ray Small (4 receptions, 25 yards) is the only Buckeyes skill player who has graded well.

The defense remains solid; end Lawrence Wilson has been dominant and the two takeaways are an excellent sign. But a mobile quarterback is once again giving Ohio State a bit of trouble. Bobcats backup Boo Jackson got off to a shaky start, throwing an interception on his second pass attempt, but the junior has settled down nicely. He avoided several seemingly sure-fire sacks and either scrambled for good gains or found open receivers. Jackson somehow got free of Wilson on third-and-14 and launched a pass downfield to Taylor Price for a 30-yard gain. The backfield escape set up the Bobcats' go-ahead touchdown. According to ESPN Research, the last time any team from the Buckeye State beat the Buckeyes was Oberlin in 1921. The score was 7-6.

Ohio holds a 127-117 edge in total yards and has converted 5 of 9 third-down attempts. Bobcats starting quarterback Theo Scott will not return after suffering a shoulder injury in the first quarter.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells seems fine as he stands on the sideline. It's the Buckeyes offense that looks a bit gimpy.

After scoring on their first six possessions last week against Youngstown State, the Buckeyes are getting stonewalled by a speedy Ohio defense. Backup running backs Maurice Wells and Daniel "Boom" Herron have done nothing, though the holes have been nonexistent.

According to ESPN Research, Ohio State had 15 rushes for 90 yards and 166 totals yards in first quarter against Youngstown State last week. This week without Chris Wells: 28 total yards, 6 yards rushing.

Even after Ohio State's defense did what it hasn't done enough -- force a turnover -- the offense couldn't capitalize. Defensive end Lawrence Wilson made a great individual play, tipping a Theo Scott pass to himself and then racing to the Bobcats' 24-yard line. But the Buckeyes went nowhere and had to settle for a Ryan Pretorius field goal -- the game's only points so far.

A cheer went up after freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor took over late in the quarter, but he misfired on several passes, nearly getting picked off on a slant route that was thrown too hard.

Ohio State's offensive line needs to play a lot better next week against USC. Quarterback Todd Boeckman already has taken several big hits.

The Buckeyes' defense looks typically solid, and some bad news for Ohio as starting quarterback Theo Scott was carted off the field after the quarter. Junior Boo Jackson, who had an impressive spring, is now in for the Bobcats.

Big Ten: What to watch in Week 2

September, 5, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

There's obviously not a great game selection this week, but the Big Ten features plenty of intriguing storylines on Saturday. And no, not all of them have to do with Beanie Wells' big toe.

Here are 10 things to keep an eye on:

1. Penn State's response to turmoil: The Nittany Lions thought they were past off-field melodrama, but the suspensions of starting defenders Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma and reserve tight end Andrew Quarless cast a shadow over Happy Valley. Will this team cave to the distractions or take care of business against a decent Oregon State team? The D-line will be shorthanded against Beavers quarterback Lyle Moevao.

2. Boom and Zoom: With Beanie Wells out, the spotlight turns to Ohio State's young running backs Dan "Boom" Herron and Brandon "Zoom" Saine, who along with Maurice Wells will carry the rushing load against Ohio. The Buckeyes need every weapon they can muster for USC, and the performances of the three backs against Ohio could loom large for next week.

3. Steven Threet era might begin: The Michigan redshirt freshman seemed to gain confidence toward the end of a season-opening loss to Utah and should get the starting nod against Miami (Ohio). Both Threet and Nick Sheridan are far from finished products, but Threet could take an important step in his evolution with an efficient performance against the RedHawks.

4. Tyrell Sutton faces Duke: The Northwestern senior sat out last season's embarrassing home loss to the Blue Devils, a game that kept the Wildcats out of a bowl. He'll be ready to roll on a potentially sloppy track in Durham, N.C., as Northwestern aims for redemption and a 2-0 start.

5. Star-studded crowd in Champaign: It should be a banner day for Illinois, which unveils the renovated Memorial Stadium and plays before a collection of living legends, including Dick Butkus. Eastern Illinois shouldn't present too much trouble, but the Illini are searching for a stronger defensive effort after last week's poor tackling display against Missouri.

6. Doyt Perry Stadium rocks as Gophers arrive: Bowling Green hosts its first-ever Big Ten opponent at Doyt Perry, and Minnesota will try to spoil the fun. The Gophers barely survived at home against a rebuilding Northern Illinois team last week and will need a much stronger effort, particularly on defense, to overcome Tyler Sheehan and the Falcons on the road.

7. Flipping quarters at Iowa: Is this the week Hawkeyes junior Jake Christensen cements himself as the starting quarterback? He'll have the chance to do so against Florida International, but improved sophomore Ricky Stanzi remains very much in the mix. It's important to see some separation soon, and Christensen still needs to improve his consistency and decision-making.

8. Beckum returns for Badgers: Wisconsin gets All-American tight end Travis Beckum back against Marshall, a potential tune-up for next week's trip to Fresno State. It's important for Beckum and new starting quarterback Allan Evridge to establish a good in-game rhythm, particularly in the red zone, where Wisconsin had two turnovers last week. Evridge can't rely solely on the run game, and he knows Beckum will be his greatest asset.

9. Penn State's Clark ready to run: We should get a much better read on Nittany Lions starting quarterback Daryll Clark this week against Oregon State. After facing no pocket pressure last week, Clark expects to showcase his running skills often against a Beavers defense that allowed 210 yards in a season-opening loss to Stanford. Clark will get help from Evan Royster and Stephfon Green as Penn State tries to run over the Beavers.

10. Purdue's offense takes flight: The Boilermakers finally make their debut and feature several offensive players in different roles. Senior Kory Sheets becomes Purdue's featured running back -- a spot he always coveted -- following a season-ending knee injury to Jaycen Taylor. Quarterback Curtis Painter gets to sample several wide receivers in more prominent roles (Brandon Whittington, Keith Smith, Desmond Tardy) against Northern Colorado.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel officially confirmed what was plainly obvious several days ago: star running back Beanie Wells will sit out Saturday against Ohio because of a right foot/toe injury. This is a no-brainer for Ohio State, which already has drawn some criticism for having Wells in the Youngstown State game after halftime.

You don't risk further injury to a big toe, which, last I checked, most running backs need to do their jobs. You especially don't risk further injury to Wells against Ohio when top-ranked USC is up next on the schedule. And this is a player who has faced injuries before, so keeping him as healthy as possible for as long as possible should be the priority. Who knows how Wells responds from the injury, but it's better to find out in L.A.

Wells' injury allows the Buckeyes to see what they have from their other running backs. Maurice Wells is a veteran who can contribute, but what about Dan "Boom" Herron and Brandon Saine? How will their performance Saturday against Ohio impact the way the coaches use them for USC? Saine's versatility is well documented, but putting him in a traditional tailback role for 15-20 carries could be greatly beneficial, especially since Ohio State doesn't know how effective Beanie Wells will be next week. Herron might be the Buckeyes' back of the future, so let's see how he handles the spotlight

I've gotten more than a few e-mails from Buckeyes fans criticizing a lack of creativity among the coaches, particularly offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. Well, here's a chance to experiment a bit, see what Mo Wells, Herron and Saine provide. Put two backs in or try the pistol offense a little bit more. Terrelle Pryor appears to have leapfrogged Joe Bauserman for the backup quarterback spot. Will Pryor be used differently without Wells on the field? Coach Jim Tressel doesn't think the two situations correlate, but Saturday is the last chance for Ohio State to see what it has from Pryor before USC.

No one wants to see a star player sit out right before a huge game, but Ohio State has to use this game as an opportunity.