Wells is back as Gophers head to Ohio

Junior lineback Simoni Lawrence runs back an interception for a touchdown in Minnesota’s win over FAU. The Gophers will need to take their defense on the road to Columbus Saturday.

Ashley Goetz

Junior lineback Simoni Lawrence runs back an interception for a touchdown in Minnesota’s win over FAU. The Gophers will need to take their defense on the road to Columbus Saturday.

HeâÄôs back. After missing three weeks with an injury to his right big toe, Ohio StateâÄôs star running back, Chris âÄúBeanieâÄù Wells, is scheduled to return to the field this weekend. Good news for State; bad news for Minnesota. The Gophers open their Big Ten slate Saturday at 11 a.m. C.D.T. at Ohio Stadium against the Buckeyes, who will have their most explosive player on the field for the first time since Aug. 30. Head coach Tim Brewster said he knows Wells will be a welcome spark for an Ohio State team that has seemed a bit lost in his absence. He also says bring it on. âÄúI want their best shot,âÄù he said. âÄúYou want to play a team at full strength.âÄù But the Buckeyes wonâÄôt be playing a full-strength Minnesota (4-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) squad. The offensive line is beat up; juniors Ned Tavale and Jeff Tow-Arnett, sophomore Dom Alford, and redshirt freshman Trey Davis are all nursing injuries. But like Ohio State (3-1, 0-0) for the last three weeks, the biggest casualty for the Gophers is at running back. Sophomore Duane Bennett tore his ACL during a screen play in MinnesotaâÄôs second game of the season against Bowling Green. Unlike the Buckeyes however, it hasnâÄôt slowed down Minnesota. True freshmen Deleon Eskridge and Shady Salamon have taken the majority of snaps at tailback since losing Bennett; theyâÄôve also picked up most of the slack. The Gophers have averaged 178.5 yards per game on the ground in those two games. And though Eskridge seems to have separated himself from the other backs based on his play in recent weeks, Brewster said he still isnâÄôt declaring anyone âÄúthe guy.âÄù âÄúWhoever is giving us the most at the position is going to play,âÄù he said. âÄúI donâÄôt think weâÄôre hung up on naming a guy as the starter.âÄù Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, on the other hand, has declared a starter âÄî and a changing of the guard âÄî at quarterback. True freshman Terrelle Pryor made his first career start last week against Troy, and his 10-16, 139-yard, four-touchdown performance looks as though itâÄôs secured his place at the helm of the BuckeyesâÄô offense. Pryor, who became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Ohio State since Art Schlichter in 1978, supplants senior Todd Boeckman and gives Minnesota a much different type of quarterback to think about. Against Troy, Pryor rushed 14 times for 66 yards. In 2007, Boeckman, who started all 13 of the BuckeyesâÄô games, totaled 63 yards. Because Pryor is dangerous inside and outside the pocket, the Gophers will have to focus on containing him. âÄúWe donâÄôt want to ever let him get outside the pocket,âÄù junior linebacker Simoni Lawrence said. âÄúThatâÄôs where I think heâÄôs dangerous.âÄù Minnesota has to worry about containing Ohio StateâÄôs big wide receivers as well. No starting Gophers defensive back tops six feet , while Buckeyes starting receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline stand 6âÄô3âÄù and 6âÄô2âÄù respectively . Minnesota will find itself on the smaller side of matchups all game, but nobody on the team seems to be stressing over Ohio State. Sophomore quarterback Adam Weber realizes the Gophers will see tougher competition in the coming weeks, but he said, âÄúItâÄôs just a football game.âÄù And junior cornerback Traye Simmons, playing in his first Big Ten game after two years of junior college at College of the Sequoias, tossed out a joke when asked about Ohio StateâÄôs size. âÄúI think IâÄôm big too,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôve got a big heart.âÄù