Brandon Bell arrived on the scene in 2013 with a bang, surprising many with his instant impact as a true freshman linebacker. Having been a three-star linebacker recruit out of New Jersey, not much had been expected of Bell right away, but by the end of that season he showed loads of potential.
When Mike Hull moved to middle linebacker for the 2014 season, Bell earned a starting outside linebacker spot next to him. He had big games against Ohio State and Rutgers in 2014, though he did miss time in several games due to injury issues. His sophomore campaign set high expectations for 2015, and the offseason did nothing to deter them: Cari was his hype woman, and he changed his jersey number from 26 to 11 with approval from Penn State great Lavar Arrington.
Bell finished the 2015 season fifth on the team in tackles, with 65 total (36 solo). He was third in sacks (5.5) and third in tackles for loss (12.5), behind only Carl Nassib and Austin Johnson in both categories. Bell also added an interception against Michigan to his stat line. When he is on his game, Bell has the ability to make game changing places with strong tackling ability and a nose for the ball that plays up when the game is on the line. He also has the flexibility to play both SAM and WILL for the Nittany Lions, as we saw in 2015.
The biggest knock on Bell throughout his Penn State career has been an inability to stay healthy, and that did hinder him at times during the 2015 season. Injuries suffered against Temple and San Diego State caused him to miss games against Buffalo and Army, and his absence in the lineup was noticeable in both games in which special teamer Von Walker started in his place.
Penn State's defense will be younger at a number of positions in 2016, but not at linebacker, where as seniors Bell and Nyeem Wartman-White will play alongside junior middle linebacker Jason Cabinda. If Bell can finally stay on the field with regularity, he should be in store for the best season of his career, and will no doubt be one of the most important pieces for the Nittany Lions.