"At nickel I think we have to be two or three deep in this defense because we have a lot of run fits and it requires you to be physical," said Bell, a starter at cornerback in 2011 before suffering the injury. "If a guy goes down we need to make sure we have enough depth there. There's been two or three of us getting a lot of reps at nickel."
The senior said fellow cornerbacks Chris Davis and Jonathan Mincy have been working at the nickel with Robenson Therezie and Ryan White spending a lot at cornerback. Bell added any of those players could be in the game at corner or nickel this year, but noted White is the guy who has improved significantly since last season.
"I told him, I said, ‘Man, I don't know what happened, but man you're balling,'" Bell said.
"He's more urgent," Bell said of the cornerback from Tallahassee, Fla. "He's trying to step up and be a leader. Maybe it's come with his age, this being his junior year, but I don't care what it is, I just like seeing it from him."
Bell noted that new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has been pushing the players to build chemistry among the defenders. The senior said he believes the Tigers have improved in that area, both verbally and non-verbally. Noting the players can exchange looks to give signs in the secondary, he said, "There's not a whole lot of chirping."
The senior said there is still plenty for the Tigers to learn about VanGorder's system, particularly for the freshmen who are trying to break into the playing rotation this season.
T'Sharvan Bell is one of Auburn's most experienced players.
Earning playing time in the secondary looks to be more challenging this year with more depth at the cornerback and safety positions than last season. Bell noted players are having to work as hard as they can each practice just to stay in the running to win a starting position.
"Last year you could kind of lay back and knew you had a starting job or maybe you wouldn't work as hard at the little detail things," said Bell, who noted that VanGorder is a stickler for doing everything correctly every time. "I think the attention to detail back there and the communication has changed a lot from last year," he said.
The straight-forward type of coaching VanGorder brought to Auburn is something players noticed immediately, Bell said. Laying down the ground rules in the first meeting, VanGorder made it known he wasn't going to compromise with anyone, the cornerback recalls.
"It was going to be his way or no way," Bell said. "That just kind of lit up everybody's eyes. That's what we need, somebody who is straightforward and is going to tell you the truth. He says, ‘If you want to know the truth, come to my office and I'll tell you.' That's what we need as young men. A lot of guys don't have father figures in their lives for somebody to tell us this is how it is, this is the way it's going to be and this is what you need to do."
Bell noted VanGorder is particularly demanding on him because he expects a lot from a senior.
Opening the season a week from Saturday with a high-profile game vs. Clemson, Bell said he and his teammates enjoy playing in big games, which the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic provides. "Everybody is saying, ‘Watch me,' as a player or as a team," he said. "It's going to show us where we are early on and it's going to be a good test for us."