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Beanie Wells Fighting for Playing Time in Crowded Sox Backfield

By  Last updated: 27th April 2011

CHICAGO, IL — He didn’t mean for it to slip. He still was angry at his team for the way it played in Sunday night’s preseason game, and a lot was sifting through his head. Still, Black Sox coach Hendrik deBoer said something this week that perked up some ears.

He was talking about rookie running back Beanie Wells and how nice it was to see the first-round draft pick contribute, because after missing most of camp because of an ankle sprain, “Beanie was anxious to get in there because he sees the opportunity to start or to play a lot slipping away.”

Start?

When training camp opened, and even after Wells signed his lucrative contract a few days later, deBoer said second-year back Chris Johnson and stalwart vet LaDainian Tomlinson were the clear starters at running back. But after Sunday’s game against the Montana Blazers, in which Wells busted a few big runs on his way to two touchdowns and 46 yards on seven carries, there could be a change of heart.

“I was just angry (Monday), and I said a lot of things,” Whisenhunt said. “But you know, we’re always going to have competition at positions, and the best players are going to play.”

Whisenhunt has been thoroughly pleased with Tomlinson and Johnson, but now that Wells appears healthy – and Wells said he was less than 100 percent against the Blazers – there’s no telling how the carries will be distributed for the team, which may end up opting for a wishbone running attack with Randy Moss the lone regular wideout.

“I would never rule it out,” deBoer said of Wells becoming the starter, “because you never know what can happen.”

Wells, whose 3,382 career rushing yards rank fourth in Ohio State history, said he’d love to start – a notion that’s gaining favor among some fans the past few days.

“But I’ve realized it’s going to be a team effort, and me and LaDainian and Chris are going to have to work together,” Wells said. “I care about starting, but we’re just going to compete and go into every game with the mentality that we both want to play and we both want to help this offense.”

The plan seems to be that Tomlinson and Johnson will be the starters to open the season until Wells gets his feet wet and his breakaway speed makes a depth-chart move inevitable.

“We’ll have to wait and see if he can do it on a consistent basis,” said Rodney Hampton, the Black Sox’ run-game coordinator. “I like what I see, but you want to see it more than just a few times. But yes, it’s good so far.”

deBoer, though, loves multiple-back formations. And if Wells, Tomlinson and Johnson can replicate the kind of success that the defending champion Challengers had with their vaunted wishbone offense of 2008, then great.

Though Johnson is perceived to be the better blocker on pass protections, deBoer said he has been pleased with Wells on that front – and he can see throwing the ball to Wells out of the backfield.

“That wasn’t part of our game at Ohio State,” Wells said. “They just didn’t do it, and they haven’t for the past 10 or 12 years. But I’m definitely interested in it here, because I want to contribute to this team and this offense as much as possible.”

As for the notion that Tomlinson might get the short-yardage touchdown opportunities and Johnson and Tomlinson will split most of the carries between the 20-yard lines, Wells just shrugged his shoulders.

“Maybe I can carry at the goal line or get third-down duty or maybe I’m just in there during garbage time,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter to me, I just want to get in the game.”



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