Ohio State fans, you can utter a sigh of relief. Chris Wells is fine.
As the Buckeyes prepare to face the first eight-loss Michigan team in school history, they will have the services of their junior tailback who goes by the name of Beanie. During the second half of OSU’s 30-20 victory against Illinois last week, Wells suffered a slight hamstring injury he later described as a tweak.
Speaking with local reporters for the lone time before the team’s annual showdown with the Wolverines, head coach Jim Tressel said he will have his primary offensive weapon available and ready to go for the game.
“Beanie’s fine,” he said. “When he hurdled, he might have tweaked something, but Beanie will be fine.”
The one player whose status is in doubt is sophomore star Jermale Hines, who missed the game against the Fighting Illini. Tressel said he is not sure if Hines will be able to go. He is still listed as the primary backup to strong safety Kurt Coleman.
Should Hines be unavailable, sophomore Tyler Moeller would fill his role as a hybrid linebacker/safety in the team’s nickel defense. In his first start last week, Moeller had seven tackles including two tackles for loss.
The Buckeyes also might get a boost from the return of junior wide receiver/returner Ray Small, whose two-week suspension was leaked prior to the team’s Nov. 8 contest at Northwestern. Tressel said Small there is a chance he will be available for the Michigan game.
“There’s a chance,” Tressel said. “What day is this? Monday? There’s a chance.”
Senior tight end Rory Nicol said he saw Small back with the team Sunday.
Aside from only having one day of interviews, there is not much that changes for the Buckeyes this week from a preparation standpoint. They will practice hard Tuesday and Wednesday, ease back Thursday and go through meetings and walkthroughs Friday to prepare for Saturday’s noon kickoff.
Things did get kicked off Sunday when former head coach Earle Bruce gave his annual pep talk to the team, but other than that it is mostly business as usual around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Of course, that approach has worked in recent years as the Buckeyes have won four straight games against the Wolverines. Many are pointing to the fact that Michigan has nothing to lose entering the game as a reason for OSU to be on upset watch, but Tressel downplayed that notion.
“When you say they don’t have anything to lose, that’s not true, because the biggest thing in the season is the Ohio State-Michigan game,” he said. “So there’s as much at stake for both teams on Saturday, and so I wouldn’t call them a team that doesn’t have anything to lose. They’re going to come out with a passion.”
So, too, will the Buckeyes, who will honor 28 seniors before the last home game of their careers. Tressel said he has a hard time comparing different classes against each other, but said this one has given plenty back to the university.
“You don’t end up liking one group more than another, but you end up appreciating what it was that their travel was and what it was their contribution was and what it was their sacrifice was,” he said. “This is a group that’s been here a great deal of time and we’ve had some wonderful things happen and we’ve had injuries happen that have shaken the family.
“It’s been a group that has worked very hard to represent us off the field and has done very well academically and I think are prepared for the next step in their world.”
The press conference was kicked off by senior linebacker James Laurinaitis, who introduced university president E. Gordon Gee. Exhorting fans to take part in a promotion where a donation of a blue-colored article of clothing to a homeless shelter will get them a scarlet “Beat Michigan” shirt, Gee came out sporting a maize-and-blue bow tie.
He then tossed it into a bin and donned a red bow tie instead – although this one had blue dots on it.
It was all part of the pageantry that goes along with the rivalry, now in its 105th installment.
Although he has embraced the rivalry since arriving at OSU prior to the 2001 season, Tressel said he would not be taking part in what has become an annual tradition: having fans jump into Mirror Lake during the week prior to the game.
Asked what someone would have to do to get him to jump into the lake, Tressel responded, “(They’d probably have to shoot me and throw me in there in November. I’m not 19 anymore. We’ll let the 19-year-olds jump in.”