The day after Blake Bell returned home to Wichita, Kan., from the Sugar Bowl, he sat down in the living room to discuss his future with his parents, Mark and Sherry.
Following Trevor Knight's MVP performance in the Sooners' 45-31 win over Alabama, Blake knew his chances of starting another game at quarterback for Oklahoma weren't great.
The redshirt junior is set to graduate in May, meaning he could transfer to another Division I school and be immediately eligible if he enrolled in a graduate program OU doesn't offer. But when the subject of transferring came up, Blake quickly made it clear that wasn't an option he wanted to consider.
“I want to stay at Oklahoma,” Blake told his parents.
“So you want to play quarterback?” Mark responded.
“I don't want to be a backup.”
“Are you telling me you're willing to give up the quarterback position?”
Blake looked at his father and said, “I don't know, but I do know one thing: I don't want to be a backup.”
So rather than transfer, Blake decided to take a stab at another position, one that slid into virtual irrelevancy in Oklahoma's offense the past few seasons. The artist formerly known as the “Belldozer” plans to play tight end as a senior.
“He switched because he has the prototypical size and ability of an NFL tight end,” said former OU center Gabe Ikard, one of Bell's closest friends.
“He did this for himself, but he also did this because it is the best thing for the team. He loves being at OU; didn't want to leave the friendships he has established in Norman; and wanted to have an opportunity to play for a national championship next year.”
Bell's size (6-foot-6, 252 pounds) does give him the ideal size of a tight end. He's also athletic for his size, as evidenced by his 24 rushing touchdowns throughout his freshman and sophomore seasons in the “Belldozer” package.
He was also an All-State basketball player at Wichita's Bishop Carroll High School.
When Bell was a high-school sophomore and Bishop Carroll had a senior quarterback, he was a standout wide receiver, even grabbing a 58-yard touchdown reception in the Kansas Class 5A state championship game that season.
“Blake has the size, the athleticism and the speed to do that,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “He has exhibited his toughness through the years. I think it'll be a great fit for him.”
A few springs ago during Oklahoma's Landry Jones era, Bell worked some at tight end, but the move never became permanent.
Although Bell has some pass-catching experience and has exhibited the toughness needed to succeed at tight end, he's never been asked to block.
“I think his biggest struggle will be with his blocking,” said former OU fullback/tight end Trey Millard. “That's something he hasn't really done and that's a big part of what tight end is.”
Tight ends were an important piece of Oklahoma's offense throughout the vast majority of the Stoops era, but the past two seasons, the unit has been thin and rarely used.
Millard and fellow fullback Aaron Ripkowski served as the Sooner tight ends when needed.
Next season, Oklahoma returns Ripkowski, sophomores Taylor McNamara — who made the first catch of his career in the Sugar Bowl — and Sam Grant, and adds junior-college transfer Isaac Ijalana and freshman Carson Meier, meaning Bell will surely encounter lots of competition when spring practices begin next month.
OU's offensive players have already started organizing 7-on-7 workouts, and Knight said Bell has looked good at tight end thus far.
“I think it's awesome,” Knight said of Bell's move. “He's gonna do great things no matter where he's at.
“He's too valuable to our team to not be on the field. For him to do that speaks a lot about his character and about him as a teammate.”