COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Thursday it is doubtful that starting tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells will play Saturday night against No. 1 Southern California.
Tressel said there was lingering soreness for Wells in his right foot after he worked out on Wednesday night. Wells did not practice with the team Thursday morning just before it departed for Los Angeles.
"We were hoping he'd wake up this morning and feel even better than yesterday," Tressel said shortly before boarding the team bus to the airport. "But it didn't happen. We'll see from here."
Wells injured his right foot in the fifth-ranked Buckeyes' opener against Youngstown State, did not play last week against Ohio and has not had contact in partial practices this week. He flew with the team on Thursday afternoon.
Tressel did not rule out the possibility of the junior seeing action, but did not sound optimistic.
"Beanie practiced about 20 carries yesterday, and maybe 20 percent of the practice," Tressel said. "We didn't have him work today. He had more soreness this morning than we had hoped for. A late afternoon practice followed by a morning practice, we're hoping that's a little bit of the reason why. So we'll just have to play it by ear."
Co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said after Wednesday night's practice that Wells was about 75 percent healthy.
"The chances of him being 100 percent are not high, I would think," Bollman said. "That would be a miraculous recovery."
Ohio State is a 10½-point underdog against the Trojans in the first meeting between the teams in 18 years. USC has won its last seven meetings with Big Ten teams, by an average margin of 27.8 points.
With Wells out of last week's come-from-behind 26-14 victory over 33½-point underdog Ohio, redshirt freshman Dan Herron, sophomore Brandon Saine and senior Maurice Wells handled the load at tailback. They have also been seeing most of the action in practice this week, with Wells working out on Monday and Tuesday on his own away from his teammates under the supervision of team trainers.
Tressel said the three backups would share the job of replacing Wells, who rushing for 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns last season and was considered a top Heisman Trophy prospect this season.
"I would call it more by committee," he said. "Now if someone starts really feeling it, no matter who that is, you would (play them). But we're pleased with all those guys."
Tressel said team doctors, trainers and the coaching staff would monitor Wells' condition and then consult with him before ruling on whether he will play in the game at the Coliseum.
He said the Buckeyes' playbook would not be severely hampered by Wells' absence. But he did say that it still might come as a shock to Wells' teammates if he cannot play in a game of this magnitude.
"Our guys have seen that we've practiced for quite some time without him," Tressel said. "I suppose maybe when you get to the realization that, OK, maybe he won't play, then perhaps there's a 'Man!' type of thing. But we've got to go (on)."