The Dorian Bell Impact
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Ohio State landed teammates Dorian Bell and Corey Brown out of Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa. back in 2009, it was viewed as a major triumph for Jim Tressel and his staff.
Both Bell and Brown were considered to be elite prospects bordering on the 5-star level, and Monroeville is right in between State College and Pittsburgh, homes of the two biggest football programs in the Keystone State.
The Buckeyes have waited two years for either player to make a major impact, and now it appears they will have to wait a little longer.
With Brown still recovering from a devastating knee injury, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel confirmed to a number of sources Sunday—including the Columbus Dispatch—that Bell would miss the entire 2011 season for violating unspecified team rules.
What Does it Mean for Bell?
Because it is a year-long suspension, it can only be assumed that Bell was a repeat offender. That means this is not his first brush with trouble, and possibly not his second either. One more and Bell can probably say goodbye to his playing days at Ohio State.
That’s how serious things just got for the former 5-star linebacker, who was considered to be a can’t-miss prospect two years ago. If nothing else, it shows that no one is really a “can’t-miss” player because there are so many factors in determining success at the next level.
Although his 2011 season is over before it began, it’s not the end of the story for Bell. Assuming he can get his head on straight, maybe this next year will serve as the wakeup call he needed to realize he is letting an amazing opportunity slip through his fingers.
Now a redshirt sophomore, Bell was having arguably the best off-season of his young career. Technically, he had not worked his way into the starting lineup, but the 6-1, 225-pound Bell was looking more and more like the No. 3 linebacker behind Andrew Sweat and Etienne Sabino.
Much like Sabino, the light seemed to have gone on for Bell, who was making plays all over the field this spring. He had a solid spring “game” and certainly would have been in the mix to be on the field in the fall.
Instead, Bell will get to experience what Sabino went through last year, except his won’t be voluntary and he won’t be taking a redshirt during his year off. Bell already used his redshirt year as a freshman in 2009 to deal with some off-the-field priorities.
He was a key contributor last season on special teams, but played in only eight games because of concussion problems. If he can get his head on straight, Bell would still be a candidate to replace Sweat at the Will linebacker spot in 2012.
What Does it Mean for the Buckeyes?
It’s not positive news for the Buckeyes, who are all of a sudden a bit a thin at the linebacker spot. Storm Klein will be back in the fall after missing much of spring practice with a strained hamstring, but the status of Jonathan Newsome is still uncertain after his tumultuous spring.
Another member of the 2009 class, Newsome was limited during spring practice because he was in Jim Tressel’s doghouse for academic reasons. If he can get that straightened out, he should be a candidate to win the starting Sam (strongside) linebacker spot in the fall now that Andrew Sweat has moved over to play the Will (weakside) linebacker position.
Sweat is the top returning linebacker from last season, with 41 tackles, but he has some history with injury problems. The 6-2, 238-pound senior missed the bulk of his sophomore season with a knee injury. He was healthy last season, but it’s important he stays that way in 2011 now that Bell isn’t available to back him up.
The most obvious beneficiary of Bell’s absence may be incoming freshman Curtis Grant. While classmate Ryan Shazier was already enrolled for spring practice, he would appear to be much better suited to play the Sam linebacker spot than the Will, which is the more traditional position in Ohio State’s defense.
Like Bell, Grant is a 5-star prospect out of Richmond, Va., who was rated as the No. 1 linebacker in the country by Rivals.com. At 6-3 and 225 pounds, Grant has enough size to play inside at the Mike linebacker spot, but his unique combination of range, speed and toughness makes him a perfect candidate for the Will spot, which has been played by the likes of A.J. Hawk in seasons past.
He might have been a redshirt candidate if Bell was still in the mix, but his absence should clear the way for Grant to see the field immediately at Ohio State. Even if he is only backing up Sweat at the Will spot, Grant could become a fixture on special teams, which is the one area where the Buckeyes might actually miss Bell the most in 2011.
Although he made just nine tackles in eight games last season, Bell was arguably Ohio State’s best player on the kick coverage team. He laid some big hits early in the year, and there seemed to be a noticeable difference when he was out of the lineup.
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