Like the Frankenstein monster, Blake Bell has spent significant time in the laboratory.
For two years, the former Bishop Carroll quarterback, still as big and hulking as ever, has been poked and prodded — in a football sense, of course — while biding his time at Oklahoma as the career of Sooners QB Landry Jones enters what seems like it’s third decade.
There’s nowhere for Bell to go, really, as he waits for Jones to go to the NFL. It looked like it might happen after the 2011 season, but Jones opted to stick around Norman for what will be his senior season in 2012. And while Sooner Nation is undoubtedly happy to have a Heisman Trophy candidate taking snaps for one more year, those of us who want to see what Bell can do as a full-fledged Big 12 quarterback remain patient.
His time, we’re assured, will come.
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“Being a competitor and stuff, you always want to get that starting job and get on the field as much as you can,’’ Bell said. “But I wasn’t disappointed when Landry announced he was coming back. It lets me learn from him for another season. I’ve just got to go out there and do what I can do and work hard. I’m excited.’’
In an attempt to get Bell on the field last season, following a redshirt freshman season in 2010, OU coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel designated Bell as a scorer of touchdowns. Well, not exactly, but that’s how it turned out.
Bell and his 6-feet-6, 250-pound body lumbered onto the field for short-yardage situations near the goal line. Some people call what Bell specialized in last season “quarterback sneaks.” But it’s not easy for a guy as big as Bell to sneak, so there’s got to be a better term for what he did last season in scoring a team-high 13 touchdowns, three more than All-Everything receiver Ryan Broyles.
“That was an awesome part of last season,” Bell said. “It’s one of those things we started doing at the Kansas State game and it just kind of grew as one of our offensive packages. And when we needed a touchdown it seemed like everyone did their jobs. Our blockers made their assignments and it really seemed easy at times.”
Few things in football come easily, so Bell, who was in Wichita on Monday at the OU Club of Wichita’s tailgate party at Abode Venue, was thrilled to score easy touchdowns. But learning the position at a football factory like OU is a challenge for anyone and Bell believes he has made progress. There is no depth chart for the Sooners yet, but based on Bell’s performance in the spring game last month it looks like he’ll go into the fall as the No. 2 quarterback behind Jones.
But there are no guarantees.
Junior Drew Allen is in the mix, too, as is red-shirt freshman Kendal Thompson. But Bell’s numbers in the spring game — 14 of 19 passing for 179 yards and one touchdown — are illuminating.
“As a passer I think I’ve gotten quite a bit better,’’ Bell said. “Spring ball helped me out tremendously because I just got better and better. I felt like the last five or six practices and then the spring game itself went really well for me. It helped me get my confidence up and to know where I’m going.’’
Bell, the son of former NFL tight end Mark Bell and the nephew of ex-Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Mark Bell, has always looked the part. It’s logical to believe it’s just a matter of time before he’s the one out on the Owen Field turf inside Memorial Stadium leading the Sooners’ offense.
But Bell doesn’t allow himself to think in those terms. He recognizes that OU is always recruiting top-level quarterbacks and that he won’t be handed anything. His performance, mostly in practice, will determine his lot.
Bell has to prove he can make all the throws, including the 20- to 25-yard sideline pattern that is the toughest for quarterbacks to grasp. He has to be able to make reads. The position needs to start becoming second nature, and that takes a while to develop.
“There’s so much learning that goes on with this position,’’ said Bell, who is majoring in communications and is thinking about adding a business minor. “There’s so much extra work that goes into learning this offense and all the foot work and the other things that go with this. We’re in the film room a lot and you have to make sure you can fit in all your school work, too. We could almost go to school full-time just learning to be a quarterback, but you’ve got to do both.’’
Bell doesn’t mind. Remember, he’s living his dream. He was an OU football fan from the time he was a kid and grew up as a big fan of former Sooners running back Adrian Peterson, now an NFL star with the Minnesota Vikings. There wasn’t much of a recruiting battle for Bell because once OU showed interest, his mind was made up.
“Yeah, the reality is as good as the dream,’’ Bell said. “It’s just crazy because you see all of these OU football fans everywhere. And when I was a kid I had all the gear and stuff like that. Now I’m actually out there in the uniform and at times I just step back and say ‘Wow, that’s a dream come true.’”