April 24, 2013

Bell could play right away at Ohio State

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Vonn Bell announced his commitment to play for Ohio State on February's National Signing Day, he made his intentions clear.

"We all on a mission. We're trying to do something special," the five-star safety said. "We're going to try to beat 'Bama and everything, so we're going to meet them at the national championship game. We're going to get that crystal ball and hold it up high in the air."

According to the coach that recruited Bell to Columbus, the Rossville, Ga. native could be a big part of those plans.

Of all of the defensive coaches on the Buckeyes' staff, Everett Withers has had the least to worry about this spring. The Ohio State safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator returns two experienced starters to the Buckeyes' backend with safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett each entering their senior seasons in their third year as starters. That type of reliability is hard to find on OSU's young defense, which will replace seven starters from the 2012 season.

But as it often does at programs like Ohio State, the rich is only getting richer.

In Bell, Withers managed to nab the nation's fourth-ranked safety and No. 32 overall prospect. The second-year Buckeyes assistant likes what he's getting in Bell, who chose to play for Ohio State over Alabama and Tennessee.

"He's an athletic guy. He's got really good ball skills," Withers said. "He's a good tackler. During the recruiting process, one of the things I really liked about him was his range. He can run, he can cover ground, he plays well with the ball in the air, he understands angles- those type of things."

If all goes according to plan, Bell will get the chance to showcase those skills sooner than later.

Despite the Buckeyes having two returning starters at their safety spots, the direction of college football offenses has lent itself to more playing time for defensive backs. In recent years, Ohio State has often taken one of its three linebackers off the field, in favor of playing an extra defense back at the nickel back position.

"Even the Big Ten is going that way a little bit. It's more geared to being a nickel as your base (defense)," Withers said. "The more you can have a group of players that can play fast -- whether it's base, nickel, whatever it is -- as long as those guys can play in space and can play with speed, that's what you play with."

And while he won't arrive on campus until this summer, the OSU coaching staff certainly believes that Bell can be one of those players.

Tyvis Powell has emerged as the early favorite to replace Orhian Johnson at the Buckeyes' starting nickel back spot, but the redshirt freshman is far from a proven commodity. Ohio State also experimented with a dime package this spring, which saw the Buckeyes play a total of six defensive backs.

Withers would like for Bell to be one of those players, but how early he contributes, and in what capacity, will come down to how quickly he picks things up once he arrives on campus.

"His development in the scheme will be crucial," Withers said. "Hopefully he can fit and be able to help us in some of those sub packages, nickel and dime, and maybe even at the free safety position, help us be able to provide some depth there."

If Bell can do that, then the mission that he's coming to Columbus for may just be a little easier to accomplish.


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