Arkansas rookie Jamario Bell does not look like your normal freshman and certainly doesn’t look like your normal freshman linebacker.
But that’s precisely where the 6-6, 255-pound former defensive end - who broke a backboard in high school - is lining up in practice right now as the Razorback staff takes a look at him as a possibility long-time there.
“It is a learning process, but I am enjoying it,” Bell said. “I think it will be better for me just moving from side to side. I think I am more free to make plays out in space.”
Bell, who ended his high school career on a 40-game winning streak, had 76 tackles and seven sacks as well as 52 catches for 753 yards last season for Junction City as the Dragons won their third straight Class 2A state title.
He is like any other freshman that wants to play as soon as possible.
“I am just going to woke very hard and make sure I do all the little things and the small things right,” Bell said. “Hopefully I will get to play this year.”
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the switch of positions for Bell and fellow freshmen Derrick Graham is just to try and see what is best for each.
“One of the things that I love to do is sit back and evaluate the talent that is in front of you,” Bielema said. “As you just watched the guys move, Jamario just moves a little bit more like a linebacker and did certain things.
“So we flipped them and everybody agrees. It’s no slap to Derrick. Derrick went from 232 to 262 in about six weeks and I think that weight is just a little much for him.
“We will trim down a little bit. We moved him over to defensive end because we do think he is a natural pass rusher, just not out in space.
“So we will see where it goes. Jamario still has a little fish out of water in him, but he is a willing soul and he is working really hard.”
Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith is of course on board.
"Jamario Bell has some length and ability to do some things at linebacker that he wouldn't get the chance to showcase at defensive end," Smith said.
Razorback linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves is excited to see what Bell can do in his new spot.
“He moves around pretty well and is just a guy that we wanted to take a look at and kind of see if in fact linebacker is an area where he could help us,” Hargreaves said. “We are looking to see if a guy like him does move around pretty well might be able to give us a little bit of help there and provide a little bit of depth.”
Bell has quickly learned the differences in a high school practice and a college one.
“The biggest difference is the tempo,” Bell said. “it is very fast and you don’t have time to take breaks. The experience guys ahead of me, they know a lot of stuff that I don’t know. It is just a lot different for me.”
His dream had always been to be a Razorback and the realization of that is something he is reveling in.
“I really love it,” Bell said. “Just the feeling of being in this locker room with these older guys like Jonathan Williams and Keon Hatcher – guys I have looked up to – JaMichael (Winston), Hunter (Henry) – it is just a great experience.”
He has played both football and basketball year round when you throw in his time with the Arkansas Wings AAU hoops team.
“Just me being focused on one spot makes it less stressful now,” Bell said. “I can just finally focus on one thing.”
Pretty much every player he has played AAU basketball with – including Bentonville senior star Malik Monk - has ended up with a Division I scholarship or several offers in some sport.
“I take a lot of pride in the fact that a lot of guys I have played with are going on to big things,” Bell said. “God has really blessed us.”
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