Bell Beaming His Way Through Two-a-Days
By Rob Ogden
Two-a-days tend to have an adverse effect on happiness. As the number of practices go up, the players’ cheerfulness goes down.
Photo by Dan Harker
Coach Urban Meyer likes to call this week “awful”. “You have to feel bad before you can feel good,” he says.
That’s the case for most of the 114 players on Ohio State’s football roster, but not for freshman safety Vonn Bell.
Nine practices in six days isn’t enough to get him down. In fact, very little is.
“Coach Meyer will never take the smile off my face,” Bell said. “I’m ready to go. Whether we’ve got three-a-days or two-a-days, I’m always gonna wake up smiling and say ‘What’s up coach, let’s go.’ ”
Freshman running back Dontre Wilson, one of Bell’s roommates, said that’s just the type of guy Bell is.
“That’s just Vonn. That’s how he is,” Wilson said. “He’s a really cool dude.”
There is one time you won’t see Bell smiling, though, Wilson said.
“He stops smiling on the field. He gets on the field and it’s very personal.”
A consensus five-star prospect from Rossville, Ga., Bell is exactly the type of player coaches want on the field, so much so that they’re trying him out at a couple different positions in order to get him playing time.
A natural free safety, Bell is also seeing practice time at nickel, a position he said he is still trying to completely grasp. With senior Christian Bryant at free safety, and Bell’s ‘big brother’ Tyvis Powell occupying the nickel spot, Bell recognizes that his best chance for immediate playing time might come on special teams.
“You've got to start on special teams first, that's what Coach Meyer wants,” Bell said. “He wants the best guys on special teams to cover. And he'll put the guys that go four-to-six seconds on the field next time or when you're on defense. You've just got to work your way up.”
No matter where he lines up, Bell’s demeanor is going to be the same.
“You just gotta go hard. If you don’t know what you’re doing, just go hard,” he said.
“You’ve just got to go in there and know your stuff, know your assignments. When your number is called, just be ready. … Just challenge everybody. Just don’t back down, just go and go.”
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said he has been impressed with Bell’s skill set.
“He has a combination of the ability to play man coverage and still go down into the box and play physically,” Coombs said. “He's fun to be around.”
Bell was one of the last to commit to the Buckeyes in 2013 when he chose Ohio State over Tennessee and Alabama on signing day.
Known as a playmaker in high school, Bell recorded 316 tackles in his final two seasons at Ridgeland High School.
He knows big-time college football is a different game, though.
“The speed of the game. The strength of the athletes,” are the biggest differences, Bell said.
“You’ve got to adapt to the speed and the terminology of the coaches. You’ve got to get your book, and really be a nerd and study. It’s your responsibility to learn it.”
The first step for any Buckeye freshman in order to be completely assimilated into the team is to have his black stripe removed from his helmet.
Two weeks into fall camp, Bell is still working on getting his removed, but it’s not something he’s stressing over, he said.
“It’s a mental thing. You just can’t worry about the black stripe, just keep on going four-to-six seconds,” Bell said. "Just play your ball and show the people how you got here.”
No matter how long it takes for that black stripe to come off, you can bet on one thing – that Bell won’t stop smiling.
And why should he? He’s living his dream.
“I'm just really looking forward to a hundred-and-some thousand people screaming and just being proud to be there,” Bell said. “It's not an everyday thing for a guy my age to be there. I'm just blessed and I thank the Lord every day.”
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