NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Blake Bell sometimes heard complaints from “open” receivers he missed last year.
Now, the new Oklahoma tight end is on the other end of the deal.
Bell started eight games at quarterback for the Sooners last season before requesting the switch. As part of his transition, he’s giving quarterback Trevor Knight some good-natured grief.
“I’m always in his ear,” Bell said with a smile. “I played quarterback once, so I’m kind of used to the all receivers. It seems like everyone (thinks he’s) open on every play. I kind of laugh, and I’ll joke around with him every once in a while.”
The 6-foot-6, 259-pound senior has drawn raves from coaches and teammates since the transition began. Coach Bob Stoops said Bell could start the Aug. 30 opener against Louisiana Tech.
“He can run, he’s got soft hands, he’s got natural feel for the routes,” Stoops said.
Bell led the Sooners with 1,648 yards and 12 touchdown passes last season, and he ran for 255 yards. He has a nose for the end zone, with 24 rushing touchdowns on 179 career carries. He remains happy with his decision.
“As a guy who’s played quarterback mostly his whole life, I love the position change,” he said. “I’m having fun with it. It’s just a whole different aspect. Getting down and blocking people and getting into the fight down there in the trenches with those guys and running routes, catching balls, it’s awesome.”
Stoops said Bell’s approach has helped everyone.
“He’s been very positive about it and he’s been nothing but a great teammate and worker and attitude guy for us,” Stoops said. “The entire team looks up to him that way. He’s been nothing but positive. I think he truly sees an opportunity to play in the NFL. This is his best opportunity.”
Bell said the biggest challenge has been blocking, but it helps to practice against good defensive players such as Geneo Grissom, Charles Tapper and Eric Striker.
The switch forced Bell to make some changes in the offseason, such as getting stronger and avoiding fast food.
“Being a quarterback, you don’t have to move around as much,” he said. “You’re not running around, then, all of a sudden, you have to run back and block and do that stuff. I felt like I was a little out of shape toward the end of (last) year, so I wanted to make sure I got back in shape. Kind of slimmed down a little bit, cut some body fat off and go that direction with it.”
Bell’s hands are so good that quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel says Bell could be a featured target.
“I think he’s going to have a major impact on what we’re doing offensively,” Heupel said. “He dramatically changes the ability for play-action passes in the middle of the football field because of his size and length.”
Knight said he and Bell have clicked because of their understanding of the offense.
“He understands it from the other point of view,” Knight said. “It helps a lot. He knows what I want to see and I know what he wants to see.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .
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