Blake Bell talks about his new position like it’s a gift from above.
Never mind that he spent the majority of his life playing quarterback. Forget that he showed flashes of greatness there for Oklahoma, amassing 2,390 yards of offense and scoring 36 touchdowns. Disregard that he switched positions because Trevor Knight passed him on the depth chart.
He has adjusted to life as a tight end and there’s no looking back.
“I completely am transitioned to tight end,” Bell said. “I’m not a quarterback anymore, and I don’t want to be a quarterback anymore. I think this was the best move for me. I love the position and I’m excited about the move.”
That may be an understatement. Bell, and those close to the former Bishop Carroll standout, thinks he has a bigger upside at tight end than at quarterback. He certainly has a better shot of making it in the NFL at his new position.
At 6-foot-6 and 259 pounds, the Oklahoma senior has the ideal body to catch passes over the middle as a slot receiver and to line up in a three-point stance and block on the edge of an offensive line.
He impressed Sooners coach Bob Stoops early in spring practices. Reports indicate he recently returned to quarterback on a limited basis, giving Oklahoma coaches the option of using him at his old position if Knight gets hurt. But tight end remains his focus.
“There’s too much speculation on will he be any good there?” Stoops said. “He’s really good there, and why wouldn’t he be with that athleticism and size? If he was 6-foot, 210 pounds, you’d figure out why it can’t work, but he looks like he’s played it his whole life.”
It looks that way, in part, because of his DNA. Bell’s father, Mark, played tight end in the NFL for six years. Bell’s uncle, Mike, was a defensive end in the NFL for 12 years. They are always offering pointers.
Bell also shares the athletic history of many successful tight ends. Like Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Julius Thomas, Bell used to play basketball, serving as an all-city forward throughout high school. He also played wide receiver for two seasons at Carroll before taking over as quarterback.
His experience fighting for rebounds, catching passes and leading a huddle made switching positions not only doable, but easy.
“It is amazing how smoothly he has made the transition,” Mark Bell said. “It’s like he was built to play tight end.”
Added Carroll coach Alan Schuckman: “He creates so many matchup issues, especially for defenses in the Big 12. If you put a linebacker against that guy, Blake is going to out-run him. If you put a corner or some smaller guy against him, Bell is going to out-size him. His skill set is off the charts at that position.”
Bell is happy to hear that others are expecting big things from him so quickly after a position change. He, too, is hoping for a big season.
But the ease with which he has taken to tight end masks the pain that led to the switch. Bell presented Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Huepel with the idea of switching positions before the Sugar Bowl. But he only did so after a great deal of thought.
As an underclassman, Bell was a cult hero among Oklahoma fans, running for touchdown after touchdown out of the “Belldozer” formation as the change-of-pace quarterback behind Landry Jones.
As a junior, Bell started eight games and led Oklahoma to a victory at Notre Dame, a result so meaningful to his Catholic family that his father calls it “the dream of all dreams.” Later, he came off the bench and sparked a come-from-behind victory at Oklahoma State.
Knight permanently won the starting job by guiding Oklahoma to a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, but it’s not as if Bell played poorly.
A transfer seemed inevitable, and Bell considered a school change, as well as a jump to the NFL Draft, before opting to try tight end.
“I could say it was an easy choice, but I would have to take it back. It wasn’t,” Bell said. “It was a difficult decision, one of those deals where I went over all my options with my family. Transferring definitely came up, but the grass is not always greener on the other side.
“I wanted to stay at Oklahoma. That’s what it came down to. I decided Oklahoma was where I wanted to finish my college career. My goal has always been to win a national title, so I decided to stay here and help my team do that as a tight end.”
Bell is so serious about winning a championship that he doesn’t have any personal goals for his fifth and final year of college. Ask what he wants to accomplish this season and he rattles off team aspirations like they are on a grocery list.
“I want to win a national championship, I want to win another Big 12 championship and I want to be the best tight end I can be,” Bell said. “That’s really all I care about.”
Bell’s transition wasn’t always easy, but with an attitude like that it’s not hard to see why he considers playing tight end as a gift.
“He’s been very positive,” Stoops said. “He’s been nothing but a great worker and teammate and attitude guy for us. The entire team looks up to him in that way.”
2014 football previews in Sunday’s Eagle
Sections G, H and I hold everything you need to know for the beginning of the pro, college and high school football seasons.