Vonn Answers Bell In Ohio State Loss

The sting that comes along with a second consecutive loss has undoubtedly affected several Ohio State fans. But while the Buckeyes defense struggled in their Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, Vonn Bell provided reason for hope in the first start of his college career.

Having surrendered 576 yards and ultimately too many points in its 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl, the box score wasn't kind to the Ohio State defense for the third time in the final three games of the 2013 season. But to say that there weren't positives on that side of the ball for the Buckeyes wouldn't be completely true.

And perhaps most importantly, one came in the form of a player with a seemingly bright future ahead of him.

The biggest personnel move made by the Ohio State coaching staff following the Buckeyes' loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game came in the form of its decision to move true freshman Vonn Bell into the starting lineup at the nickel position. The former five star prospect spent the majority of his first college season playing special teams, but found himself starting in his freshman finale after Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown proved ineffective in the latter half of the season.

A self-proclaimed "Vonn Bell guy," Urban Meyer's decision to promote Bell appeared to payoff, with the Rossville, Ga. native recording seven solo tackles and an interception in his starting lineup debut.

"I played alright. I could get better at some things," Bell said. "But I made the plays that was there for me."

The freshman's night didn't get off to a stellar start, with Clemson star Sammy Watkins catching a 34-yard touchdown pass over Bell on the Tigers' second drive of the game. It didn't take long for Bell to bounce back, however, as he managed to intercept Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd near the end zone in the second quarter on a play that would've put the Tigers up by two scores.

A leaping, one-handed grab, Bell's play was of the highlight variety, and showcased the type of ability that made him a highly-touted prospect coming out of Ridgeland High School.

"We ran a little zone play. I read the eyes of Tajh and he threw it and I was able to make a play," Bell said of the interception. "They said we need plays made, so I made the play for us."

Managing to stay around the ball and provide support in the run game from the nickel position, it'd be hard to argue that Bell didn't do what was asked of him from the Ohio State coaching staff. While he feels as though his future is at the Buckeyes' free safety position, the 5-11, 195-pounder possesses apparent versatility, which was one of the biggest reasons why he was able to crack the starting lineup on Friday.

But despite his omnipresent smile -- which was noticeably dimmer following his team's second loss in as many games -- Bell admitted to being frustrated by his lack of playing time leading up to the Orange Bowl, which only fueled his showing in South Beach.

"It just motivated me to keep on grinding every day," he said. "As a true freshman, it's really hard to play DB. You have to be really talented and you just gotta stay patient and show them every day and earn the coaches' trust."

With his big game on the shores of the Biscayne Bay, Bell appears to do just that. The sting of a second straight loss was apparent in his words, but as somebody who figures to be a mainstay on the OSU defense moving forward, it will be up to players like Bell to turn around what the Buckeyes defense has become as of late.

"It's hard for me. It's hard for these seniors, because that's who I really wanted to do it for. We gotta take this as motivation," Bell said. "I just gotta get better and I have more motivation this spring.

"I'm going to be a leader on this team and on this defense."

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