Hey. I didn't explicitly ask to write about Brandon Bell again, but I'll do it. You know I will, with great pleasure.
How He Got Here
Bell is one of the many players on Penn State's roster who hail from the (insert adjective here) state of New Jersey, a three star recruit from Mays Landing and the #22 recruit in that state in the class of 2013. He committed to the Nittany Lions in June 2012, having been recruited as a middle linebacker by Ron Vanderlinden as next in line at Linebacker U. He had offers from WVU, Northwestern, Purdue, Syracuse, Maryland, Boston College, and BTPR, as well as interest from Stanford, Iowa and Wisconsin--but was all Penn State once he committed.
His freshman year was a trial by fire in one of the worse PSU defenses in a number of years. Due to the lack of depth at the linebacker position, Bell played immediately, seeing time in ten games and logging 24 tackles (14 solo), forcing one fumble. He came on strong as the year ended, though, making his lone start at Wisconsin in arguably Penn State's best game of the year that season, and definitely having his best game of his freshman campaign, with six tackles (four solo) on the day--and BTN.com noticed, naming him to the Big Ten All-Freshman team for the year.
He came into 2014 the presumed starter with Glenn Carson's departure and Mike Hull's move to the middle, and he didn't disappoint. He started 1o of the team's 13 games (seeing time in 11), and when he missed Illinois and Michigan State due to injury, his loss was supremely felt. He had his first interception of Gary Nova at Rutgers, and logged 47 tackles (23 solo)--not bad when playing next to Hull. He had his most impressive game under the lights at Beaver Stadium on October 25, when this happened:
Bell ended that 2-OT night with 13 tackles (5 solo), a personal best. Here's to more of that this year, though it might be detrimental to my Big Ten fantasy team.
What to Expect in 2015
Only just a break out season, as I predicted before. Someone's got to step up in the wake of Hull's departure, and though most of us foresee it will be linebacker by committee with the increased depth and talent of Nyeem Wartman-White and all the talk of Jason Cabinda's success in summer camp, Bell's presence can't be understated. He switched numbers in the offseason, to the storied #11, and though Bell himself attempted to downplay the number it has some significance.
This year's defense will find it difficult to match last year's unexpectedly awesome performance, but if Bell even partially lives up to expectations they'll be well on their way. And if staff votes are any indication, he will.
How the Top 10 Players Were Selected
For those of you curious, the top ten players were selected by a staff vote. Each staff member ranked the top 10 players, with a number one vote counting as 10 points, a number two vote counting for nine points, and so on. A full list of the rankings, including those who received votes but were not included in the top 10, will be published with the reveal of Penn State’s top player on Friday, Sept. 4.