NORMAN — Blake Bell and his parents are fully aware of the criticism that comes with being Oklahoma's starting quarterback. Over the past three years, they've gotten an up-close look at just how intense it can be.
But at least one aspect of Landry Jones' personality that became regular fodder for quarterback bashing won't be applicable to Bell, should he — as is expected — take over the Sooner offense on a full-time basis in 2013.
Jones shattered virtually every Oklahoma career passing record over his four years as starter, but couldn't win over much of Sooner Nation, at least in part because of his extremely calm, often unemotional game day demeanor.
Bell, on the other hand, can't step into a competitive environment without unleashing a high-octane, fiery enthusiasm that OU fans have witnessed with each of his 24 career rushing touchdowns out of the short-yardage “Belldozer” package.
It's that kind of enthusiasm that those who know him best say has him invigorated — not disheartened — by having to earn the job through a lengthy, tough quarterback derby.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and seniors Aaron Colvin, Gabe Ikard and Trey Millard will travel to Dallas this week for Big 12 Media Days, kicking off the 2013 college football preseason. A few weeks later, fall camp begins, with Bell, sophomore Kendal Thompson and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight continuing their battle to replace Jones as Oklahoma's starting quarterback.
It's a battle few expected to last this long. After all, Bell gained invaluable game experience the past two seasons, has been in the system longer than Thompson or Knight and was named the Sooners' second-team quarterback last fall, seemingly cementing his place as Jones' heir apparent.
Then, Bell outperformed the other OU quarterbacks in the Sooners' April spring game, completing 14 of 23 passes for 213 yards with two touchdowns.
But a starter hasn't been named yet, and according to his father, that's OK with Bell.
“Competition brings out the best in you,” said his dad, Mark Bell. “Blake has embraced it. He understands that when he came to Oklahoma, nothing was gonna be given to him. If anything, it's fueled the fire. It really brings out what Blake's about.”
Competing not only brings out the best in Bell's game, but also that enthusiastic in-game demeanor.
“He's got a great competitive fire in him,” said Bishop Carroll coach Alan Schuckman. “Right, wrong or indifferent, that's the way he's wired. I know as a coach, I loved having that type of personality at quarterback.
“I think it inspired his teammates and made them play with more fire and energy. Game day is one thing, but he was always high energy — in practice, it's every snap; in the weight room, it's every rep. That's definitely contagious.”
Bell threw for 2,752 yards, 32 touchdowns and only five interceptions as a senior at Bishop Carroll, while also rushing for 839 yards and 22 scores. In one memorable game that was televised nationally on ESPNU, Bishop Carroll trailed crosstown rival Kapaun Mount Carmel by two touchdowns late in the first half before Bell led the team to a thrilling 36-34 victory.
He threw for 239 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 80 yards and three scores that night, when Carroll claimed the City League title.
“Seeing your leader and your quarterback so energetic will just make the rest of the team more energetic,” said Joe Brown, Bell's teammate at Bishop Carroll High in Wichita, Kan., and now a senior tight end at Colorado State.
“I've played with him since eighth grade and he's always been that way.”
Even as Bell put up eye-popping statistics and received several high-profile scholarship offers, though, no one could've imagined the level of celebrity he's attained — particularly as a backup quarterback.
“You have high hopes for him, but you never in your wildest dreams would think that you'd go to your local grocery store and find four magazines with him on the cover,” said his mother, Sherry Bell.
She was called for jury duty in Wichita last week, and said she was approached several times and asked about Blake.
“‘Hey, how's the Belldozer doing?'” she recalled with a laugh. “It's affected our lives immensely. It's like a household word.”
Brown said, “It's funny to brag about him up here. ‘That's my high school quarterback.' I'm excited and happy for him. He deserves all he's gotten. He's a great teammate.”