MADISON – Even in a year of short numbers of scholarships, Wisconsin and head coach Paul Chryst are finding a way to bring in experienced players.
Having already added two players via transfer in the spring, the Badgers have added former Hoover (AL) High and University of Alabama defensive end Christian Bell to the roster.
The 6-4 Bell joins tailback Chris James (Pittsburgh) and cornerback Nick Nelson (Hawaii) as transfers brought in by Wisconsin this year to go along with a 2017 recruiting class that currently sits at 10 players.
Bell’s first recruitment was drawn out. Picking Alabama in April 2014, Bell had to delay his enrollment for eighth months because Alabama asked him to grayshirt after oversigning. He didn’t officially sign until last December. After just one semester, Bell decided to seek a transfer in search of more playing time.
His second recruitment went quickly. According to Scout’s John Garcia, Bell visited campus over the weekend and was sold.
"The thing that allows him to be such a great player, and he has been for us since he was a sophomore, is his long length to his body," high school coach Josh Niblett said when he committed to the Crimson Tide. "He understands leverage and I think anytime you have those qualities, and can run and understand the game of football, it gives you an opportunity to be very special at what you do.
"He can rush the passer with his hand down as a defensive end or play the run. Also, if you need him to drop in space, he's a really good athlete like I said with a lot of length on him -- so he can play in space and be versatile and do a lot of different things for you."
Wisconsin will likely start Bell at outside linebacker and could move him to defensive end if he adds weight, a similar process to what Alabama was planning to do with him.
"All kids feel like they always have something they have to work on," Niblett said. "It's the transition, whether it's offensive linemen in high school versus those in the college game, there is an adjustment…what makes Christian so valuable is that he's a student of the game. He studies film, he studies his opponent, so he'll be very prepared when he gets there and he'll try to make his mark as soon as he can.
"I'm excited for him and I think sky is the limit for him, he understands that he has a plan for what he wants to do."
Described by his high school staff as a player who embraces the work aspect, Bell is the oldest of seven kids. He wore No.49 in high school because he was nine years old when his father passed away. By the time he left Hoover, he was one of the team’s strongest leaders.
"He's always been a real warrior in whatever he does," Niblett said. "He's always been very committed to everything he's a part of, and I think that's what's special about him. I remember when Christian, this whole group (of 2015 talents), coming through middle school, they would be the ones hanging on the fence when we came through. They were waiting their turn to play here, make their mark and to leave a legacy behind. He always had a passion, always had an energy and he loves to compete.
"As someone who loves to compete, you do it in everything. It comes in the classroom, in the meeting room, it's in the weight room, it's on the practice field. He understands what's expected of him and the best part is that he already expects that from himself."
Bell has all his eligibility to remaining.