Irish ready for Belldozer's ground, air attack

Irish ready for Belldozer's ground, air attack
September 26, 2013, 12:15 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- There's not another quarterback like him in college football.

Blake Bell stands at 6-foot-6, 252 pounds, a behemoth with a rocket arm that wasn't on display until two weeks ago in Norman. Before Bell lit up Tulsa for 413 yards and four touchdowns, his reputation was a short-yardage specialist, a guy who's nearly impossible to bring down when Oklahoma needs only a few yards for a first down or touchdown.

Notre Dame easily could've had that impression of him after last year's meeting with Oklahoma, in which Bell scored the first rushing touchdown of the year against the Irish defense (it was in game No. 8).

But if Notre Dame ever viewed him as nothing more than a short-yardage specialist, the team doesn't anymore.

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"He's much more than a goal line offense quarterback," coach Brian Kelly said. "He's a skilled passer of the football, and I think he maybe got a reputation that is not really fitting of who he is."

With just one game on film, Bell's a tough guy to get a read on. He didn't begin the season as Oklahoma's starting quarterback, but took over when Trevor Knight went down with an injury. He's started just one game, that coming against a heavy underdog in Tulsa on Sept. 14.

"We definitely respect all his abilities. We know he's a big, physical guy, and you get the name Belldozer for a reason," linebacker Jarrett Grace said. "We're ready for all the dynamics, passing it, running it, so we're just going to cover all our bases come Saturday."

In terms of speed, Bell isn't as mobile as Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, but he's just as difficult to bring down. Whereas Gardner could escape Notre Dame's pass rush with his agility, Bell's size makes him a difficult guy to bring down.

That being said, cornerback Bennett Jackson isn't too worried about Bell's size, at least in terms of preparing for him. Ultimately, for him, it comes down to effort in bringing down the gargantuan quarterback.

"Really just your intent, whether you're shying away from the tackle or you're running in to make the tackle," Jackson said. "That's what I feel the difference is between all tackles. But if you're running in there and you're focused on tackling him, you're going to make the tackle. He may get a couple yards, but that's the most important thing, just to bring him down."

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Oklahoma has speed and athleticism everywhere around Bell, be it in running backs Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch, or wide receivers Sterling Shepard, Jalen Saunders, Jaz Reynolds, Durron Neal, etc. But the key for Notre Dame on Saturday will be to limit Bell's impact -- keep him from imposing his will on the ground and through the air, and the Irish should have a chance to beat a top-15 team.

"He can ignite an offense, whether it be scrambling, running somebody over, making a big throw," safety Matthias Farley said. "He can do everything, he's very capable of everything. I'd say he's a very impressive quarterback overall."