Bell adjusting to new role

OU tight end Blake Bell

One of the biggest stories of OU's spring is the move by Blake Bell from quarterback to tight end. Read his thoughts on the switch.

There's no question one of the top moments for Oklahoma's 2013 season was when Blake Bell found Jalen Saunders in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown at Oklahoma State in the final seconds.

No question at all about it. SoonersIllustrated.com readers voted it the No. 1 play of the year, and it wasn't even a real close battle.

Fast forward a month later, and Bell was no longer even in the conversation of being the quarterback for the 2014 season. Following the performance of Trevor Knight in OU's 45-31 upset victory against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, it was obvious it's Knight's show from now on.

It left Bell with a quandary. He wants to play and can play, showed that several times during the season. He could have transferred as Drew Allen had done before Bell the previous season when it's clear Allen was the odd man out.

Bell went in another direction and talked to the coaches about moving to tight end. It wasn't an easy talk to have, but it's one he felt had to make.

"It was a tough decision," said Bell about stepping away from being a quarterback. "Obviously playing quarterback was my dream, but another dream of mine was to play at OU, and I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to go anywhere so that's why I stayed around. I love these guys, love my teammates."

Bell threw for 1,648 yards and 12 touchdowns, completing 60 percent of his passes and rushed for 255 yards last season. But no regrets, no sour grapes, it's tight end from this point forward.

With Bell's size at 6-foot-6 and 264 pounds, the move feels like a natural one. It's actually a move a lot of fans had whispered about throughout last season, but it's just so uncommon to see a player make that kind of sacrifice.

"It's a brand new world for Blake," co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "It's fun to watch because he's a good athlete and he's got long arms. He's got parts of his body that are bruised that have never been bruised before. But he loves it and the players love him and he loves Oklahoma."

Even though it's a drastic change in position, it's one where Bell can make an impact. The only tight end on the roster returning who caught a pass is sophomore Taylor McNamara. He caught his first career pass in the Alabama game.

It's too early to say if Bell is going to be the starting tight end when the season approaches with only one week of spring football in the books, but he's off to a good start. And he's enjoying himself.

"It has been fun," Bell said. "Obviously the mindset last year or so, and the years I've been here is drop back and throw the ball and occasionally get out of the pocket and run.

"Now it's here in the trenches. You've got to make a down block and combo to this guy, and then maybe run a corner route full speed and then run back and go tempo. It's just a different mindset, and it will take me a little bit to get used to."

The expectations don't change with Bell being moved to tight end. Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel made that pretty clear. The expectation is for Bell to compete at the highest level and execute on a consistent basis, or he won't see the field.

Based on his previous experience, however, Heupel is not worried about that.

"Blake's got soft hands, good hands," Heupel said. "He's running around really well. He's a huge target. I believe that's going to be really positive. I'm sure blocking is something we'll have to work on, but Blake's athletic. He's tough. He's got size. He's got strength – he's got the things you need to do it."

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