In addition to new coaches, there are several new faces on West Virginia’s defense that Mountaineer fans need to become familiar with. One of them is junior free safety Travis Bell, although Bell really isn’t all that new. Only his role is new.
Bell is listed No. 1 at free safety on the updated depth chart released by the WVU Sports Communications Office earlier this week after spending his first two years in the Mountaineer program as a backup.
A Belle Glade, Fla. resident, Bell appeared in all 13 games last year as a sophomore, mostly on special teams, but he did make his first career start against Cincinnati and finished that game with six tackles – four of those unassisted. He also logged significant playing time against Connecticut and managed to recover a fumble in the Bowling Green win.
Bell says his biggest moment on the field to date was a tackle along the sidelines against UNLV during his freshman season in 2010.
“I got a flag for it, but it was still worth it,” he laughed.
Bell admits the memorable moments have been few and far between so far, but he hopes to change that in the near future.
“Right now I’m fitting in as one of the missing puzzle pieces just because I didn’t start last year, but so are some other players,” he said. “I just want to make some plays and make sure that we don’t let our coaches down.”
Bell has nice size for a free safety (6 feet 2 and 201 pounds) and a good nose for the football. During one practice earlier this spring he came up with a pair of interceptions against starting quarterback Geno Smith and has performed well in other practices.
Although the defensive scheme has changed from a 3-3-5 to a 3-4 with the arrival of the new coaching staff, the responsibilities for the players – particularly the guys in the secondary – haven’t really changed that much.
“Really the only difference is our base defense is a different defense,” Bell explained. “We technically still run the same defense - it’s just different players playing different positions.”
Bell also says the reads the players are required to make are a little bit different as well. “Just from which person you are checking off of instead of how we did it last year. It’s just little stuff like that.”
The one aspect of Bell’s game that he admits he must continue to work on is playing lower to the ground – something coaches have been telling him since his pee-wee football days.
“Since I’ve been raised I’ve always been told I play too high,” Bell said. “It’s something I need to correct. I’m getting better but I still play high.”
As far as the difference in coaching styles, Bell says he really can’t detect much of a difference.
“From the practices both staffs appear to be really similar,” he said. “(Joe) DeForest might blitz a little more than (Jeff) Casteel.”
Bell thinks this year’s defense is built for speed and just needs to become a little more consistent in order to slow down some of the high-powered offenses the Mountaineers are going to face next season in the Big 12. It will be interesting to see how Bell and the rest of his teammates stack up against some of the most dynamic offensive players in the country this fall.
“I need to get stronger and put on a little bit more weight so I can be ready for the Big 12,” he said.
- The depth chart released Tuesday has little in the way of surprises. On offense, the top four wide receivers are made up of Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, J.D. Woods and Ryan Nehlen. The O-line has the same five that have been working together all spring – Quinton Spain, Josh Jenkins, Joe Madsen, Jeff Braun and Pat Eger - while the backfield features quarterback Geno Smith and running backs Ryan Clarke and Shawne Alston. Last year’s starter, Dustin Garrison is expected to be cleared for practice by the time fall camp begins in August.
On defense, the top three guys up front are Will Clarke at defensive end, Jorge Wright at nose tackle and Tyler Anderson at defensive end. Listed as the team’s top four linebackers are Jewone Snow at Buck, Terence Garvin at Star, Jared Barber at Will and Doug Rigg at Sam, although Snow and Garvin are shelved this spring while recovering from off-season surgeries. Getting No. 1 reps in their places are Josh Francis at Buck and Wes Tonkery at Star.
The back end features Brodrick Jenkins and Pat Miller at corners, with Travis Bell at free safety and Darwin Cook at bandit safety. Miller is also sidelined (broken foot sustained earlier this spring) and will not be available until later this summer. Sophomore Avery Williams is currently working in Miller’s spot.
Keep in mind, this depth chart is just a snapshot of where the players are right now and could change at any point throughout the remainder of the spring or during fall training camp.
- Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who also coaches the wide receivers, has moved some of his guys around this spring. Austin played the H receiver position last year but is now playing the Y spot where Tyler Urban and Devon Brown played last year; Woods flipped from Z to H and Nehlen went from X to Z.
Along the offensive line, Spain went from right guard last year to his more familiar left tackle spot this spring, while Braun is back at right guard after playing left guard last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, Clarke has moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, Anderson is now playing defensive end after spending last year at Sam linebacker, Jared Barber has gone from Mike to Will linebacker, and safeties Garvin, Wes Tonkery and Shaq Petteway are now playing the Star position.
- West Virginia is scheduled to practice today and will have assistant coaches available for interviews following practice this evening. The next opportunity for media to meet with Coach Dana Holgorsen will be next Tuesday night following practice.
- Don’t forget tickets remain on sale for this year’s Gold-Blue Spring Game and can be purchased through WVUGAME.com. Kickoff for this year’s spring game is set for 5:30 p.m.
Travis Bell, West Virginia University Mountaineers, WVU, Mountaineer football, Big 12 football
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