Bell Poses Big Challenge For OSU Defense

The Ohio State football team will begin Big Ten play Saturday at Michigan State with a major challenge defensively. Ohio native Le'Veon Bell leads the Spartans on offense and will provide a test for the Buckeyes at Spartan Stadium.

There are plenty of things that go into winning a college football game. Ohio State will have to do several if the 14th-ranked Buckeyes hope to travel to East Lansing Saturday afternoon and return with a win against the No. 20 Spartans.

But it would be fair to say one thing is a priority, at least defensively: Stop Le'Veon Bell.

That won't be an easy task, though. Bell ranks third nationally among Football Bowl Subdivision rushers with 152.50 yards per game and is clearly the go-to guy on offense for Michigan State, a team that has high hopes of returning to the Big Ten Football Championship Game this December. The bruising back arrived on the national stage Aug. 31, rushing for 210 yards on 44 carries and producing a pair of touchdowns in a 17-13 win against then-No. 24 Boise State. Bell even provided a signature moment during the victory with a first-quarter hurdle over BSU safety Jeremy Ioane.

Most recently, Bell rushed for a career-best 258 yards last weekend against upset-minded Eastern Michigan at Spartan Stadium. The Eagles put a scare in MSU before the Spartans emerged with a 23-7 win, but Bell couldn't be blamed for that performance. He capped the afternoon with a 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter and was named the Big Ten offensive player of the week for his efforts – his second such honor this season.

Bell certainly has the attention of the Ohio State defense.

"We just watched him a little bit on tape (Sunday) night," OSU co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Everett Withers said. "He's a patient runner. He does a nice job of setting up blocks within their offense and their power game. I think he does a nice job of cutting back. He knows when to cut back, and he knows where the soft spots in the defense are.

"He knows when to take it on the edge. He does a nice job with a stiff-arm out on the edge. He'll lower his shoulder inside. He's built as an I-back, insider runner. I think it fits what they're trying to do offensively."

Bell, junior from Groveport (Ohio) Madison, boasts good speed to go with his 6-2, 244-pound frame. That combination will test the Ohio State defense, which has struggled bringing down rushers – especially in open-field situations.

"You've got to stop him before he gets going," senior linebacker Etienne Sabino said. "A big back like that is hard to bring down if he gets moving, so you have to stop him before he gets going."

Senior defensive back Orhian Johnson put it a different way.

"Get him before he gets to you," he said. "That's the thing. You definitely want to get to him before he gets started because he's real top-heavy. You know he's going to run down the field, and he's got good feet so you can't just chop at him. You've got to make sure you get up there and wrap him up and wait for your boys (to help make the tackle)."

Sabino said Bell's vision gives him an edge to go with his solid measurables.

"Just watching him on film, he does a good job of finding holes," Sabino said. "And his offensive line does a good job of blocking for him. He has very good vision and he's very patient waiting for holes to open up."

Tackling Bell will be a key, according to Withers. So will keeping him bottled up and out of open space.

"We're going to have to make sure we keep him sideways and not let him go north and south," Withers said. "That's got a lot to do with leveraging the football. Tackling, a lot of times, starts with leveraging the football. If you can leverage the football and get guys that you want inside and outside the ball carrier, then you should tackle him."

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