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November 20, 2007

Beanie now among the elite

From the day he committed to play football at Ohio State, it was only a matter of time before Chris Wells emerged as one of the nation's premier running backs.

The time has come.

Rated by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 3 overall prospect behind Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin and Alabama offensive lineman Andre Smith in the 2006 class, Wells turned in the best performance of his young career in Saturday's 14-3 victory over archrival Michigan. He rushed for a career-high 222 yards and scored both Buckeyes touchdowns despite a painful ankle injury.

"Beanie Wells is a difference-maker," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "He's a physical, fiery guy. You could tell in the locker room before the game that he wanted to put the team on his shoulders and go with it.

"He's the best back in the Big Ten in my opinion."

Even proponents of Wisconsin's P.J. Hill, Michigan State's Javon Ringer or Michigan's Mike Hart can't argue that, especially since Wells averaged 204 rushing yards against those teams.

But Wells is more than a powerful running back with excellent speed. Apparently, he's also a powerful public speaker.

"Beanie doesn't say too much," Tressel said. "But he said a lot before this (the Michigan) game."

His message was more poignant than prolonged.

"I just told everybody, 'There's nothing you're going to do in life that compares to this moment,' " Wells said.

Wells definitely was ready for the game of his life.

Tressel said the intensity was seen in Wells' eyes, then seen on the field when he rushed for 67 yards in the first half. It was even more evident in the second half.

"At halftime, 'Coach Bolls' (offensive coordinator Jim Bollman) asked me if I was ready," Wells said. "I said, 'Yeah.' "

Wells rushed for 155 yards in the second half, including a game-clinching 62-yard touchdown run. Wells was so dominant in the second half that the Buckeyes attempted just two passes. Ohio State had 31 plays in the second half, and Wells carried on 19 of them.

That second-half effort summed up Wells' sophomore season - he was good all season and spectacular in the second half.

Wells has rushed for 1,463 yards, which is the second-highest total in the Big Ten. He has rushed for 821 yards in the past five games, which is more than anyone else in the Big Ten in that span.

That strong finish will ensure All-Big Ten and All-American honors for Wells. And with four starters expected to return on the Buckeyes' offensive line, it also should help establish Wells as a serious Heisman Trophy contender next season.

It was just a matter of time.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.


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