Though Blake Bell has made the move from quarterback to tight end, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops insists there is still some gas left in the tank of the “Belldozer.”
The Sooners’ depth chart was revealed before Monday’s weekly media luncheon in preparation for Saturday’s season-opener against visiting Louisiana Tech and Bell was listed as the starting tight end, followed by redshirt sophomore Taylor McNamara.
"It’s been really solid. He loves doing it,” Stoops said of Bell’s transition to tight end. “He's really a big target, a comfortable target for any quarterback when he's in the middle of the field (or) wherever he’s at. He's got great hands. The different lifting and training from a quarterback to a tight end here through the year has helped him get stronger and bigger. The blocking has been solid and I think that’s something through the year that will improve the more opportunities he gets.”
Last week, however, when backup quarterback Cody Thomas was sidelined with a minor muscle strain, Bell took some reps as No. 2 quarterback and performed well despite retiring from the position last January.
“I don't want to say it was easy for him,” Stoops said, “but he went in there and you wouldn't have noticed (the layoff). Once you know the entire offense, you know it. He really handled it quite well.”
With Trevor Knight’s evolvement as a starting redshirt freshman quarterback last season that was capped by a remarkable performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Bell volunteered to relocate to tight end and an appreciative Stoops quickly agreed to the move.
Redshirt sophomore Baker Mayfield was slated to be Knight’s backup, but it is expected Mayfield will have to sit out this season under Big 12 transfer rules. This development could make Bell a backup option at quarterback, depending on down-and-distance.
“How much? We’ll see,” Stoops said. “We always think there are a certain number of plays that we can go to. Truthfully, if you ever do that, you are taking some hits away from Trevor, or some tougher inside spots where you can get bigger piles and you don’t want him (Knight) in. There’s a place for it, but how much would maybe depend on how successful we are with some of the other stuff we are doing.”
The Belldozer package utilized the 6-foot-6, 259-pound Bell in short-yardage and goal-line situations and made its debut at Kansas State during Bell’s redshirt freshman season in 2011. Bell had 12 touchdowns each in 2011 and 2012, but did not find the end zone last season in 75 rushing attempts.
Bell certainly has a fan in Knight.
“The way he has transitioned and the way he has handled the whole thing has been so admirable to watch,” Knight told the Associated Press. “To see a guy who obviously would want to be kind of the guy at QB, but to take a step back for his team and really, to take a step forward for himself maybe in the future – it’s really been unbelievable. He’s really doing an excellent job there, getting involved in the trenches, and also catching the ball.”