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Name: Ronnie Bell
Weight: 184 lbs.
High school: Kansas City (MO) Park Hill
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: #8
Last year: I ranked Bell #95 and said he would redshirt (LINK). He had 8 catches for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns.
TTB Rating: 71
For those of you longing for the return of Steve Breaston, I think you may have found a reasonable facsimile in Ronnie Bell. Bell is a slightly built, slippery slot receiver who has the ability to break away without ever really looking like a blazing runner. Bell played early and often as a true freshman, and he figured into the team’s plans in many ways. He caught the ball (8 catches for 145 yards and 2 TD), ran the ball (5 carries for -2 yards), returned punts (2 returns for 7 yards), and returned kickoffs (2 returns for 53 yards). Not bad for a wide receiver who was a recruiting afterthought.
But not great, either. Bell got some jet sweeps despite not having great speed to really threaten the defense to the edge, and I think Michigan’s staff just wasn’t sure how to use him. They wanted some Eddie McDoom or Jehu Chesson jet sweep magic, but Bell just doesn’t quite have that explosion. I think Josh Gattis will have a better idea of how to use Bell, and it also helps that Bell will have spent another year in the weight program. With a guy like him who has a natural ability and willingness to shake off tacklers, a little bit of extra strength should benefit him.
It’s a mighty large jump to go from #95 to #27 in one year. Part of that is because of the promise Bell showed, but it also represents Michigan’s slightly shaky wide receiver situation. I had Bell ranked here even before Oliver Martin’s transfer, and a big reason is that Tarik Black just hasn’t shown that he can stay healthy. Even with the arrival of Mike Sainristil and other touted freshman receivers, having a guy who spent the spring in the system (unlike Cornelius Johnson, George Johnson III, and Giles Jackson) should help him plug in various places if necessary. For now I expect Bell to be a backup in the slot, but he can help in so many ways that a top-30 ranking seems right.
Prediction: Backup slot receiver/punt returner/kickoff returner