Yes, the Vonn Bell Academy is alive and well.
It taught its first classes in last year’s Orange Bowl, and the 200-level courses opened in the win vs. Navy. Bell didn’t start but did finish the game, making seven tackles including five solo stops as the defense clamped down on the Midshipmen in the late going.
And when the new Ohio State depth chart came out Tuesday, Bell had moved up to the No. 1 spot at free safety, usurping first-game starter Cameron Burrows.
The VBA is open for business.
“It’s always around,” he said with a smile Wednesday. “It’s a little thing. The coaches know about it and everything and the players know about it. You just have to make plays.”
Teammates are catching on.
“I don't know how he got that nickname, Vonn Bell Academy,” linebacker Curtis Grant said. “I tell him it stands for Vision and Break because he has great vision and he's always breaking on stuff.”
Those are the attributes that Bell brings to the table and showed in the impressive showing vs. the Midshipmen.
“I made every play that came to me,” he said. “I had a lot of tackles, I executed my reads and my keys. I just like playing with those guys out there. It’s a fun environment. I was just running around, making plays.”
The next step is becoming more consistent, especially when it comes to his everyday approach. Bell admitted he’s the kind of guy who shines when the lights go on, and fellow safety Tyvis Powell calls him a gamer. But that might be one reason why he wasn’t out there for the start of game one, as safeties coach Chris Ash said Bell wasn’t on top of his game every day in preseason practice.
“It happens in the course of practice in how they handle their business,” Ash said. “Cam Burrows is a guy who has been practicing for us since last February, doing the things we needed him to do at the safety position. Unfortunately Vonn missed some spring practice because of injury. Cam didn’t do anything to give that position back and Vonn was a little bit up and down with some things throughout the course of training camp. The good thing is we’ve got competition at that position.”
The Rossville (Ga.) Ridgeland product admitted it was difficult to begin the game on the sideline – it appeared to be for his family, as well, as his brother accidentally tweeted his frustration from Vonn’s account, which Vonn described as “nonsense – he spent the first part of the game getting mentally focused to make his mark.
“It was kind of tough,” Bell said. “I just can’t down on myself. I have to keep playing the game. It’s motivating. Each day, you have to make every play that comes to you and show the team and the coaches why you want to start and why you need to start. You have to show that throughout each and every day.”
Things are starting to turn Bell’s way, and his trademark confidence is blossoming nicely as he earns more playing time.
“I feel way more confident,” he said. “I feel I’ve grown up in the game. I just feel on point.”
And the VBA?
“I’m the dean,” he said with a smile.