NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops left no room for doubt regarding Blake Bell’s position during Thursday’s spring football news conference.
Stoops said Bell, who started eight games at quarterback for the Sooners a year ago, won’t take any snaps at the position this spring after moving to tight end. Oklahoma begins spring practices on Saturday.
“He's embraced it,” Stoops said. “He is really excited to have the opportunity and excited because he believes it's going to be really good for him, and we do as well.”
Bell completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 1,648 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions last season, when he finally got the opportunity to lead the OU offense after spending two years developing a cult following as the “Belldozer” behind Landry Jones.
As a redshirt freshman and sophomore, Bell entered games in short-yardage and goal-line situations, took a shotgun snap and plowed forward for first downs and touchdowns. He scored 24 times on the ground over those two seasons.
Bell entered last season as the clear favorite to replace Jones, but lost the preseason quarterback battle to Trevor Knight. After Knight struggled through two games and suffered a knee injury, though, Bell took over.
He threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start against Tulsa, then led the Sooners to an impressive victory at Notre Dame two weeks later.
But Bell struggled in OU losses to Texas and Baylor, and after suffering a concussion against Iowa State, Knight retook the Sooners’ starting quarterback job.
Although Bell — in relief duty — led Oklahoma to a fourth-quarter rally that upset Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Knight started the Sooners’ Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama and was spectacular, earning MVP honors after a 348-yard, four-touchdown performance.
Many expected Bell — who is set to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in May — to take advantage of special NCAA rules that allow graduates to transfer with immediate eligibility, but Bell opted to remain a Sooner and switch positions.
Tight ends have a proud history at Oklahoma, but haven’t made much of an impact on the Sooner offense the past two seasons. Bell hopes to reverse that trend, and according to Stoops, has already looked impressive in offseason workouts.
“He really has done a great job continuing to build his strength and size,” Stoops said. “He’s up to about 257 (pounds) … won his first tug-of-war individual battle yesterday.
“We usually don’t have our quarterbacks in any of those competitions, but Blake, one-on-one, beat one of the D-linemen, so we’re fired up about that.”
Stoops wouldn’t rule out a place for the “Belldozer” package in next season’s offense, either, now that Bell isn’t the starting quarterback anymore.
“That’s something that we could still use with Blake back there, sure,” Stoops said.