Buckeyes’ Bell sees bold vision becoming reality
DALLAS – It wouldn’t be right to ask Ohio State sophomore safety Vonn Bell for upcoming lottery numbers or even a long-range weather forecast, but the loquacious Bell would probably gladly offer an answer.
His predictions thus far have been pretty spot on.
Twenty-three months after Bell spurned Alabama and Tennessee to head north and play for Urban Meyer and Ohio State, he’ll start Monday night in the national championship game vs. Oregon. Just like Bell said he would.
On the day of his signing in Feb. 2013 at Rossville (Ga.) High School, Bell said he was picking Ohio State because "Urban Meyer is on a mission to win a national championship." He said Meyer told him throughout the recruiting process that he’d see the Buckeyes along the way if he picked Alabama, so he might as well come join an Ohio State team that was chasing Alabama.
"Everyone says the SEC is where I need to go," Bell said after signing. "But (Meyer) is going to bring the SEC up there."
Bell’s first-half interception in the Sugar Bowl national semifinal vs. Alabama helped Ohio State swing the momentum. The Buckeyes won, 42-35, to advance to play Oregon in AT&T Stadium in the first national-title game of the College Football Playoff. For the first time in 10 years, there’s no SEC team playing in the title game.
So, at this point, who’s to argue with Bell?
The Buckeyes where Bell said they’d be two years ago, and despite having a young roster and a defense full of young, budding stars like Bell, "we’re right on schedule," Bell said.
Bell leads Ohio State with six interceptions on the season and is the second-leading tackler with 86 total stops. Ohio State’s four leading tacklers are underclassmen.
"We just started a new trend," Bell said of Ohio State’s young defense. "Last year, we were the weakest link on our team because our offense was putting up so many points and we were giving up so much. This class (of 2013), we just came together in the offseason training and just stepped up.
"We said enough is enough. The Silver Bullets defense (is) back."
Bell said Ohio State’s defense "came out hitting" in the Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama, a game Bell said he knew would be "a fistfight."
"It will be a track meet," Bell said.
Both sides will have fresh Nikes ready.
"Oregon, they like their tempo," Bell said. "They like to tire you out and they like to get out and make plays. They expect at least five explosive plays to win the game. When you’re playing against Bama, it’s more (about) physicality. They like to punch people in the mouth and just hope for a big play. This is a potent (Oregon) offense with a guy who can manage it."
Meyer and Bell — and just about everyone else associated with Ohio State — believe that slowing Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota is the key to slowing an Oregon offense that averages more than 47 points and 75 snaps per game. Bell credited his red-zone interception in the Sugar Bowl to preparation and knowing Alabama’s tendencies, and the cram session on Oregon has gone on all week.
"Mariota, he takes control of the game and he manages it," Bell said. "He puts the offense in great situations. He knows when to run. He knows when to pass. He’s a smart player."
As for what happens when the track meet becomes a football game and the Buckeyes secondary tries to match Oregon’s speed, both on the perimeter and in hustling back to the line of scrimmage, Bell said "we’ll see what happens."
Almost two years ago, Bell said "we’re all on a mission" when asked about Ohio State’s 2013 recruiting class, a group that’s produced outside linebacker Darren Lee and consensus All-American defensive lineman Joey Bosa, among other contributors.
This week, Bell said that group "had a vision. We wanted to bring championships to this program…we are living up to it right now I guess."
For Bell, it’s been so far, so good — on the field and in the prediction business.