NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Opponents might see an awful lot of Blake Bell this season.
The senior has earned the starting tight end job for No. 4 Oklahoma after switching from quarterback. He also could be used as a short-yardage specialist or as an emergency quarterback.
Bell moved to tight end in the spring and quickly gained the respect of the coaching staff and the players. He has continued to improve in fall practice and is ready to play his new position in Saturday's opener against Louisiana Tech.
"He's really a big comfortable target for any quarterback when he's in the middle of the field," coach Bob Stoops said Monday. "He's got great hands. The different lifting and training from quarterback to tight end here through the year has helped him get stronger and bigger."
The coaches have said they believe Bell has NFL potential at tight end. Quarterback Trevor Knight said Bell has blossomed since the switch.
"The way he has transitioned and the way he has handled the whole thing has been so admirable to watch," Knight said. "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."
Bell beat out Taylor McNamara for the No. 1 tight end spot. Isaac Ijalana and Aaron Ripkowski also figure to play.
Stoops said the "Belldozer" package that has utilized the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Bell as a red-zone, short-yardage specialist will remain a part of the offense. Bell has 24 career touchdowns rushing.
"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," Stoops said. "There's a place for it. But how much or not, it would maybe depend on how successful we are with some of the other stuff we are doing."
Bell also has been taking snaps as an emergency quarterback because No. 2 quarterback Cody Thomas had a recent muscle strain and Baker Mayfield's eligibility is uncertain. Stoops said he wants to redshirt the No. 3 quarterback, freshman Justice Hansen, which played a role in giving Bell some snaps.
Stoops said Bell looked comfortable at quarterback.
"I don't want to say it was easy for him, but he went in there and you wouldn't have noticed," Stoops said. "Once you know the entire offense, you know it. He really handled it quite well.
Stoops said Thomas' injury was minor, and that he was throwing on Thursday and Friday.
In another move, Jordan Evans will start at what was Frank Shannon's inside linebacker spot. Shannon, who faces a year-long suspension for what the school has called a violation of its policy regarding sexual assault, isn't listed on the first or second team. He was the team's leading tackler last season, and he has been practicing with the team. Shannon appealed the school's decision to suspend him in Cleveland County District Court, and the judge stopped the school from enforcing its decision. The school appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and a final decision has not been made.
"That situation is still unresolved, and therefore, I've got to proceed with players I know are going to be available to me through the rest of the year," Stoops said.
Julian Wilson is a starting cornerback after starting 13 games at safety last year. Redshirt freshman receiver K.J. Young also is listed as a starter, along with the more experienced Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal.
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