The modern NFL Draft began in 1967. That year, Spartans were selected with the Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 8 picks. Things have changed since then, but MSU has had at least one player selected in every NFL Draft since that first common draft, and 2013 will continue that streak.
Bell is an early entrant to the NFL Draft, leaving after his true junior season.
He seemingly came out of nowhere, but quickly became a fan favorite, and when the backfield was all his, he didn't let down.
Bell came to MSU as a two-star recruit who didn't get much BCS interest and was possibly looking at a position change. But he enrolled early in 2010 and the coaches began to rave about how he looked. He played in all 13 games as a true freshman and established himself as the No. 2 back early in a crowded depth chart, rushing for 605 yards and eight touchdowns with a ypc of 5.7 on the year. But he hit a freshman wall, not rushing for more than 13 yards in any of the final seven games. Still, he helped the Spartans win 11 games and earn their first Big Ten title in two decades.
In his sophomore season of 2011, he was again the No. 2 back. Through the first six games, he had 287 yards on just 59 carries (4.8 ypc). But opposite of the previous year, he got stronger as the year went on. In the final eight games, Bell rushed for 661 yards on 123 carries (5.4 ypc) and seven touchdowns. The Spartans went 10-2 in the regular season, winning the Big Ten Legends division. They lost to Wisconsin in the conference title game (Bell rushed for 106 yards), but finished with a win over Georgia in the Outback Bowl. It was clear by the end of the year Bell was the No. 1 back, and that was part of the reason Edwin Baker declared early for last year's draft (he was drafted in the seventh round).
So Bell went into his junior season of 2012 as the clear No. 1 guy, and that was evident from the beginning. Bell rushed for 210 yards on 44 carries in the opener against Boise State and also had six catches for 55 yards. He would break the 30-carry mark seven times in 13 games, including the final four. He finished with a nation-best 382 carries. He rushed for 1,793 yards (4.69 ypc) and 12 touchdowns. The Spartans were one of the worst offenses in the nation, and with Bell as the only offensive weapon for defenses to key on, and he still was very effective. With the Spartans needing to win the regular season finale against Minnesota to reach a bowl, Bell ran for 266 yards on 35 carries. In the bowl game against a stout TCU defense, Bell ran for 145 yards on 32 carries. --
It wasn't a surprise that Bell left. He was going to take another season of pounding, and with running backs having such short NFL careers, he needed to strike while the iron was hot and he was still in one piece.
As for his game, it's a rare mix of power and quickness. He doesn't have breakaway speed, rarely blowing past a secondary, but he can hit holes and has an arsenal of moves. His spin move was one of the best going into 2012, and he added a hurdle his junior year.
The secret for Bell is that he rarely takes the brunt of a hit. He's so balanced and shifty that opponents never get a straight-on shot. As a result, he almost always falls forward. He has the ability to bowl over opponents, and they often expect that because of his size, but he usually jukes or spins. He has incredible vision and knows how to follow his blocks, as infrequent as they were at MSU.
He's also an underrated pass-catcher, recording 78 grabs over three seasons.
He has the strength and endurance to be an every-down back, as rare as they are in the NFL these days. I don't know if his lack of breakaway speed will allow him to be an every-down back, but he's far more than a just goal-line back. He won't be able to overpower NFL defensive players, but that's what makes his agility and shiftiness so valuable. If he plays for a team that can run-block, look out.
He has a unique, old-school style, and it will be very interesting to see what kind of career he has in the NFL.
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