NORMAN — Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell avoided a blitzing Tulsa defender, rolled to his right and inadvertently slammed into center Gabe Ikard early in the second quarter last Saturday.
“That was the hardest I got hit all game,” Ikard said. “Just clocked me straight in the side of the head. You know, you like having a big quarterback, but not when he runs straight into you.”
That botched play aside, Bell's 6-foot-6, 252-pound frame gives the Sooners' offense some new advantages. He can more easily see over linemen to find open receivers and has the ability to extend plays by bouncing off would-be sackers.
With Bell, Oklahoma's offense also boasts a rarity when it comes to quarterbacks. He's one of the biggest starting quarterbacks — in terms of height and weight — in the country.
Heck, he's one of the tallest players on the entire OU roster. Four offensive linemen, a tight end and a defensive tackle are the only Sooners who match or exceed Bell's height.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Bell's impressive football genealogy isn't geared toward quarterbacking. His father, Mark, and his uncle, Mike, were both NFL defensive ends.
“My dad and uncle both played tight end and defensive end,” Blake Bell said. “There aren't really any quarterback genes. But starting from a young age, I always wanted to play quarterback, so that's just kind of how it went.
“I just feel like that's another key to my game, just being a little bigger and having a little bit more weight, being able to take some hits in the pocket. It's always seemed like I've been bigger since I was little.”
But not this big. Bell left Bishop Carroll High in Wichita, Kan., weighing around 210 pounds.
He redshirted his first season in Norman, and then became a cult hero when coaches began using him in the short-yardage and goal-line “Belldozer” package, when Bell would enter the game for quarterback Landry Jones, take a shotgun snap and plow forward for first downs and touchdowns.
Bell's 24 rushing touchdowns over the 2011 and 2012 seasons gave the OU offense an effective red-zone and third-down option, but also created the impression that Bell's game was limited to short-yardage runs.
That perception only increased after OU coaches named redshirt freshman Trevor Knight the starting quarterback in August, ending a months-long position battle Bell was expected to win.
But after Knight struggled in the first two games this season — and suffered a knee injury — Bell started last weekend against Tulsa and shined, completing 27 of 37 pass attempts for 413 yards and four touchdowns.
Bell's mobility was also on display against the Golden Hurricane. He extended plays and picked up yardage on scrambles when he couldn't find an open receiver.
“He's hard to bring down,” said co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. “He's tough in the pocket. Contact doesn't affect him as much.”
Interestingly, the Knight-to-Bell switch caused the Sooners to go from having the shortest (Knight stands 6-foot-1) to the tallest starting quarterback of the Bob Stoops era.
“It's an advantage to be that tall, and especially when you're throwing short and intermediate passes,” Norvell said. “You can just see over everybody. Little guys have gotta find lanes. Big guys can just see over the top and just drop it down.”
BELLDOZER VS. THE NCAA
Few starting quarterbacks around college football are as big and tall as Oklahoma's Blake Bell. Here's a look at Bell, plus three other starters with similar statures.
Ht., Wt.: 6-foot-6, 252 pounds
Bell's dad and uncle were both NFL defensive ends, and he certainly inherited that sort of stature. But he always wanted to play quarterback, so that's what he did. He arrived at OU weighing around 210 pounds, but bulked up, became the “Belldozer” and rushed for 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He lost the starting quarterback job this preseason to Trevor Knight, but got his shot and took advantage of it when Knight was injured.
College: Virginia Tech
Ht., Wt.: 6-foot-6, 254 pounds
Thomas was ranked as the nation's No. 1 tight end prospect in the recruiting class of 2009, but was a high-school quarterback. He was a quarterback from the start in Blacksburg, redshirting as a true freshman and eventually taking over the starting job as a sophomore in 2011. Last season, he threw for 2,976 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 524 yards and nine scores. He's been more of a pocket passer this season, though, with only 12 carries and 11 rushing yards.
College: N.C. State
Ht., Wt.: 6-foot-6, 234 pounds
Thomas started his college career at Colorado State, throwing for 4,269 yards and 18 touchdowns in two seasons. He redshirted last year after transferring to N.C. State, and has started all three of the Wolfpack's 2013 games.
Ht., Wt.: 6-foot-6, 240 pounds
Wilson played in all 12 games as a true freshman in 2012, starting the last seven, and entered this season as the starter. Through three games this season, he's passed for 845 yards and seven touchdowns, plus gained 244 yards and five touchdowns rushing, through three games
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BELLDOZER VS. THE NFL
Blake Bell is one of college football's biggest starting quarterbacks, but what about signal callers at the next level?
Here's a look at four of the biggest NFL starting quarterbacks:
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Ht., Wt.: 6-foot-6, 245 pounds
Flacco signed with Pittsburgh out of high school and spent two years there before transferring to Delaware. He was picked 18th overall by the Ravens in the 2008 NFL Draft and quickly became the starting quarterback. He's led Baltimore to three AFC title game appearances and a victory in Super Bowl XLVII last February.
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
College: Kansas State
Ht., Wt.: 6-foot-6, 240 pounds
Freeman scored 64 total touchdowns (44 passing, 20 rushing) over three seasons at Kansas State and was picked 17th overall by the Bucs in the 2009 NFL Draft. He became the starter late in his rookie season and has held the job ever since. In 2012, he threw for 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Team: Carolina Panthers
Ht., Wt.: 6-foot-5, 245 pounds
Newton started his college career at Florida, but transferred to Blinn College, then Auburn. In his one season there, he won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to a national championship. The Panthers selected Newton with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and he's started every game of his professional career. Newton was the NFL's 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
College: Miami (Ohio)
Ht., Wt.: 6-foot-5, 241 pounds
After an impressive college career at Miami (Ohio), the Steelers picked Roethlisberger — nicknamed “Big Ben” for his size — with the 11th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. He was the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2004 and has led Pittsburgh to three Super Bowl appearances, winning two of them.