Kansas duo changes OU

Bell, Grissom settle in to new positions for Sooners

Blake Bell started out as a gimmick – the ‘Belldozer’ – albeit an effective one. Now, he’s one of just a handful of players in Oklahoma’s storied history to throw for, run for and catch a touchdown.

Outside linebacker Geneo Grissom began his career with the Sooners as a tight end. On Monday, he drew comparisons to former NFL star and Florida defensive end Jevon Kearse after settling into a position that seemed to be perfectly created for just his skill set.

Both paths have been long, stopping at three different positions in just five years. Grissom has lined up on both sides of the ball, and Bell has gone from top quarterback recruit to tight end.

Where they are now though, seems almost custom designed for their respective skill sets, and as they each learn the nuances of their positions, they will bring a special dynamic to Sooners – on offense and defense.

“Something about the people from Kansas,” Oklahoma defensive end Chuka Ndulue said of Bell, Grissom and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. “Don’t know if they play sports all the time or what. They’re all freak athletes.”

While Phillips has shined in his own right, Bell and Grissom bring something unique to the field.

Bell is a matchup nightmare in the secondary at 6-foot-6 with the knowledge of playing quarterback. After scoring his third career touchdown and setting his season touchdown goal at five, Grissom is hyper athletic in space – capable of baiting a quarterback into an interception or bringing him down on his own.

The two also share a learning curve. Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel called Bell a “pup” at the tight end position, and Grissom, who moved back to defensive end two years ago, is just now starting to get the right feel for the ‘Jack.’

“I feel like I’m passed the point of thinking about it,” Grissom said. “I feel like I’m reacting a lot more now.”

It almost seems crazy to think that the two still aren’t playing to their full potential, although in their new positions, their full potential could lead them to the NFL.

Bell has always talked about how playing quarterback makes him a better tight end. He can understand the reads of a quarterback and knows what defenses are trying to do better than most tight ends. Grissom echoed that statement, saying that his time as a tight end better equipped him to play on the edge – covering tight ends.

“I see all my position changes as ways that I’ve learned the game,” Grissom said. “I learned offensive schemes, what offensive coordinators are trying to do, how to run routes and things like that. I take that and I put it in when I’m dropping in coverage, I have an idea of where he might want to slide, if he’s going to try to go inside or go outside.

“I understand it a lot more.”

Grissom grew up catching passes from his dad, and as soon as he could, he started playing organized football. First, he was a running back before switching to tight end in high school.

“He’s an exceptional athlete in the way he runs, his ball skills, the size and strength he has,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “ … It wasn’t a leap of faith. We knew it would make us better in a lot of areas. We’re bigger and we’re stronger overall too.”

Bell is the same way, having grown up in a football family with two former professionals just a notch or two away in his family tree.

“Blake is special,” Stoops said. “ … I’m elated that it’s working out as well as it is. He’s excited about it and he wants to keep growing in the position the more he gets comfortable doing the things he’s doing. It does speak to his talent, his skill and his overall attitude and how positive he is.”

Texas has always been a hotbed for recruiting for Oklahoma. There are just too many athletes in the state to pass up when it comes to building a team.

But they’ve had some pretty good success going north to Kansas as well.

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