2018 Recruiting: Ronnie Bell

Submitted by Brian on August 7th, 2018 at 10:30 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S Sammy Faustin, S German Green, CB Gemon Green, CB Vincent Gray, CB Myles "Spider" Sims, LB Cameron McGrone, DE Taylor Upshaw, DE Julius Welschof, DE Aidan Hutchinson, OL Jalen Mayfield, OL Ryan Hayes, TE Luke Schoonmaker, TE Mustapha Muhammad.

 
Kansas City, MO — 6'1", 170
 

bell
[Nick Ingram]

24/7 3*, #1178 overall
#13 MO, #169 WR
Rivals 2*, 5.2 rating
NR
ESPN 3*, 73 rating
#16 MO, #210 WR
Composite 3*, #1477 overall
#18 MO, #213 WR
Other Suitors K-State
YMRMFSPA Jeremy Gallon
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes No twitter! Missouri State basketball decommit.

Film

Senior:

Ronnie Bell is the kind of recruit who assumes that Bill in Social Studies is at it again when someone tells him Michigan's on the phone:

“I went through the entire football season, and it wasn’t until a month after football season ended [that Michigan reached out]. Mentally, I was like, ‘Dang, football isn’t going to happen.’ I can’t even explain how surprised I was. I was like, ‘What?!’ I thought for sure I was being pranked.”

At the time Bell was headed to Missouri State for basketball, which he'd committed to before an 89-catch, 1600+ yard senior season on the gridiron. He was the Kansas City area's player of the year, and that's a fairly large area with several P5 recruits annually. But still the phone did not ring unless Bill in Social Studies had managed to slip his minders yet again.

Michigan only stumbled on him because Harbaugh's brother-in-law is a basketball coach in the area and tipped him off towards the end of that monster season. Michigan put on the tape, and:

"There's got to be a problem here," Harbaugh thought.

There was not. And Harbaugh isn't just blowing smoke about a flier Michigan took. Let's take the unusual step of embedding his highlights in the body of the post, because you may as well scout the guy too:

That is good tape.

[After the JUMP: hermit story]

Bad tape has a lot of wide open easy catches and replays. Bell's tape has a lot of high-pointed balls in traffic and a healthy number of circus catches, with routine balls limited to touchdowns because all touchdowns must go in highlight reels no matter how banal. He's obviously too dang skinny, but being a basketball recruit first and foremost through November of 2017 explains that away rather nicely. That also helps explain the bizarre shape of Bell's recruitment. Harbaugh again:

"He didn't go to any of the shoe camps. The Adidas camp, the Nike camp, or the Under Armour camp. He was busy playing AAU basketball."

Harbaugh said Bell played AAU basketball every summer since the sixth grade, keeping him from attending camps populated by football coaches.

Bell's avoidance of camps was so strident as to be obtuse. His head coach:

Ronnie never attended a single camp or do the other things kids do to get recruited. Ronnie never did that. He played in games and practiced with us while other kids were going to this and that, he was declining invitations. Colleges were saying 'come here and run a 40' and he would skip that to come to weights and football practice that afternoon.

I was telling kids to feel free to skip a gym practice for camp or anything you want to and he thought that was ludicrous and I think that hurt him. He didn't get out on the radar, he wasn't chasing them down, and some schools would come in and see the film and were ready to bite, but I think they were waiting for someone to bite first and then it took off when football season started and he was a freak since week one. We all saw it, we knew it, but I think the schools just missed.

Ronnie Bell lives high on a mountaintop and only permits the villagers to ask one question of him every harvest. If that question is "do you play football?" he arcs a single eyebrow and smiles tightly. It is entirely appropriate that Bell's commit announcement wasn't even a tweet but an update to his twitter bio. Then I think he deleted his twitter.

Anyway: that's a pretty good, convincing story why Bell was off everyone's radar. And once he got on someone's there was a reassuring scramble. When Michigan came in with an offer there was a flood of other interest that may have turned into a healthy offer list if Bell hadn't immediately committed to Michigan and returned to his hermit lifestyle. Kansas State was on the verge of an offer; Nebraska, Penn State, and Notre Dame also got on the phone more or less immediately. The sincerity of those inquiries is impossible to judge, obviously.

The hermit lifestyle means that scouting is basically nonexistent. There was a brief round of articles immediately post-commit seemingly based off just highlight film. Woody Wommack confirms that Bell is a human with the proper number of limbs:

"He looks pretty good. He's a little undersized but he's definitely productive and looks good playing receiver. He knows how to get off the line and seems to get open whenever he wants."

Allen Trieu did give it a crack for 24/7:

Smooth, glides around the field and shows good elusiveness, short-area quickness, and change of direction. Does not exhibit elite long speed ... does not have any on-record, reliable times. Tracks the ball and adjusts to passes very naturally. Competitive as a blocker. Conscientious and hard-working kid ... will have to get stronger ... Intangibles -- football smarts, competitive nature and attention to detail -- are likely to allow him to play and produce beyond his measurables.

Trieu's last sentence there is important. Bell's father was the WR coach at Missouri Western until he decided to focus on his son's potential career, and Bell is really, really a coach's son. He's whatever the coaching equivalent of a gym rat is:

I remember he spent a lot of time in college film rooms and he was out there on the field for college practices, so he's very smart. He would come to the sidelines in our games, grab an Ipad and start showing kids what was happening and talking to the quarterbacks. ...he came to our Sunday coaches meetings. He came to every single one of them. We would gather on Sundays, go over the offensive and defensive game plan together and he was at every one of them, ate food, watched through the gameplan and knew everything that was going on.

Steve Lorenz reported shortly after Bell's commitment that the staff "was really impressed with Bell's explosiveness, ball skills and especially his body control" and that his vertical was "massive"; the opposing coach in the article Rivals always does said he had "speed and explosiveness" plus "great hands and quick feet." Elsewhere Brandon Brown put a number on that vert: 40 inches.

Folks are always taking bouncy basketball wings and turning them into tight ends. Here Michigan is taking a guard and doing the same. It's not a bad bet, and when the guy is also amongst the most productive WRs in the country it's a better bet still. Despite Michigan's clear desperation at the point they struck upon Bell he seems like a legitimate sleeper worth the swing.

Etc.: nope.

Why Jeremy Gallon? Bell is much taller, granted, and much lower-rated, granted. He still projects as a surprise outside receiver who uses his relentless attention to detail and resemblance to Snoop from The Wire to outsmart and intimidate opposing defensive backs. Think it's a bad idea to throw up a fade to a six-foot guy? Well, let me tell you about Jeremy Gallon and his rocket boots.

Bell probably won't have the opportunity to be the #1 until deep into his career and that'll separate him from Gallon but if he goes for 300 yards against Indiana remember I told you so. (If he disappears into a hole, forget this post entirely.)

Other comparables include Grant Perry, another super-productive high school receiver who's a bigger slot or smaller outside WR, and Mario Manningham if Michigan rolls like three critical hits in a row.

Guru Reliability: Nil. Unscouted except for some local efforts.

Variance: Moderate. Not huge but will fill out. Super productive and the most coach kid of all coach kids. Floor relatively high.

Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Maybe he's a secret Manningham but probably he's a good #2.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. If Bell was the second guy in a two-WR class with a touted dude that would be just fine with me. As the only dude in his year I'm a little fussed, but not about Bell. He's got a good story, good film, and a ton of production. He's likely to contribute.

Projection: Near-certain redshirt as he transitions away from basketball training and packs on sufficient pounds to not get broken in half. Large and good WR class in front of him should block him through 2020, and then it'll depend on just how those guys develop. If Black and DPJ are still around hard to see Bell passing them; if they're NFL-bound he's going to be in with Martin and Collins for reps.

Slot versatility will help; Bell's career might look like Grant Perry's if Michigan suddenly needed Perry to be the #1 guy as a senior.

Comments

bronxblue

August 7th, 2018 at 12:51 PM ^

His Hello post was reasonably effusive as well, which was also surprising given the feelings shown toward other lower-rated WRs.  

I do think he has a potential to be a solid #2; he's athletic enough to battle for balls, and he does feel like a legit 2-sport athlete who can grow into the position as he focuses on it.  

LeCheezus

August 7th, 2018 at 11:05 AM ^

I don't understand why some of these guys with insane HS production end up ranked so low.  I get that they might not be 4/5* guys due to measurables, but do the ranking services really think a guy with Bell/Perry level of HS production just won't find a way to get open at the next level?  You'd think guys like this would end up in the 400-600 composite range, yet every year there are DE's that have played one season of football in the top 100 because they can run fast and have long arms, ignoring the fact that they have terrible pad level and uh, don't really know how to play football.

Here is another example of a player on Michigan - List of HS accomplishments:

Honors and Rankings
• USA-Today All-Ohio Defensive Player of the Year
• Named Ohio’s Division I Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press
• Member of Maxpreps 2016 Football All American team
• OHSAA Defensive Player of the Year honors

That is preferred walk-on Matt Brown.  I can see how HS stars become average P5 players but it is amazing to me that they can basically become unranked nobodies to the ranking services.

Kevin13

August 7th, 2018 at 11:13 AM ^

It’s tough to see all kids and these services like rivals wants them at their camp. They don’t come to their camp and their rating takes a hit. Bell may turn out to be a stud but as stated never attended camp and everyone assumed he would play basketball so never looked at him. This is where good coaches find those diamonds in the rough 

Ali G Bomaye

August 7th, 2018 at 11:26 AM ^

The recruiting "services" are businesses that are focused on profit margin. It's far more efficient for them to send a scout to a camp where he might see 30 or 40 top prospects than to watch tape of high school games that might have 1 or 2 prospects. They save more money by maintaining minimal staffing levels, and missing prospects like Bell or Brown, than they would make by being more accurate and scouting those guys.

uofmfan_13

August 7th, 2018 at 1:50 PM ^

Exactly right.  Brian, Ace and company have done a great job of discussing the state of the current recruiting/scouting industry.  Particularly as it pertains to football, it is consolidated and hyper-focused on just a few camps and a few all-star events and shoe company showcases.  "Underwear football" is how many guys are judged, not the actual body of work in pads, etc.  

https://www.3starsleepers.com/2018/05/27/return-of-the-sleeper-croot-recruiting-industry-consolidation-will-mean-more-athletes-going-under-scouted/

Michigan4Life

August 7th, 2018 at 3:24 PM ^

By the same token, there are a lot of ultra productive HS players who never done anything in D1 level. It's a totally different game from HS where you're often the best athlete as opposed to D1 level where everyone is a good athlete.

Same reason why ultra productive college players who don't pan out in the NFL.

JonnyHintz

August 8th, 2018 at 11:11 AM ^

What it really boils down to is how lazy these sites have gotten. They hardly do any in-game scouting anymore, so if you’re a guy who doesn’t go to camps you’re going to fly under the radar. Which is why so many people take recruiting rankings with a grain of salt anyway. A guy like Bell who is probably a low 4*/high 3* type gets ranked outside the top 1000 and is ignored completely by the sites until after he commits.

Indiana Blue

August 7th, 2018 at 11:19 AM ^

Love the under the radar guys, who have great athletic skills.  Bonus ... if he did delete his Twitter account, Hail to him.  This country would be a better place w/o Facebook and Twitter, and all the 13 year olds that can pose as adults (plus those adults that act like they're 13 years old).

Go Blue!

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

August 7th, 2018 at 2:05 PM ^

These days whenever a player doesn't do the usual Twitter maneuvers, I actually do consider it a major plus.  UVA has a DT commit for 2019 whose rankings and offers should have placed him a thousand miles beyond UVA's reach.  When he released his top ten I thought "we actually have a shot" because, instead of having a huge fancy graphic made with logos and a picture of him in a thunderstorm (or, like, being a thunderstorm), he just typed them into Twitter.  A revolutionary idea.  Sure enough, he committed to UVA over Ohio State, a whole mess of SEC offers, and goodness knows what else.

A lack of social media interest or savvy seems to be an indicator of high intelligence and character in football and basketball recruits.  (To be clear, it doesn't work the other way around.)  It's weird, but welcome to 2018, I guess.

Barn Animal

August 7th, 2018 at 11:26 AM ^

Me at the start of Bell’s film: “this guy looks pretty good, probably a bit underrated”

Once the leaping contested catches began: “Holy shit Harbaugh unearthed a dude.”

curtalv8

August 7th, 2018 at 11:35 AM ^

This puts me a little at ease. However, I'm still concerned that we are taking 2 super dark horse projects in back to back classes with not one elite WR. DPJ and Black won't be here forever

The Man Down T…

August 7th, 2018 at 11:48 AM ^

"but probably he's a good #2."

We'll need a good #2.  But if that tape is any indication of his effort and instincts, the kid can be a #1 go to in the clutch.  Many of those catches were in traffic and covered and he just beat the defender to the ball and secured it.  That's a great skill to have. 

Don

August 7th, 2018 at 11:52 AM ^

It's perhaps understandable that out-of-region programs like PSU or Michigan didn't have a non-camper on their radar until very late, but there's no excuse for lower level P5 programs like Missouri or neighbor Kansas to not to have been on this guy heavily. He's in their fucking state or right next door—do they not keep tabs on the best players in their own immediate region?

Don

August 7th, 2018 at 1:08 PM ^

I think it's an example of over-reliance on getting the personal workout and/or camp visit at the expense of simply watching what somebody actually does during a real game. Coaches at K State or Mizzou should have been able to see Bell's games in person and offer him on the spot. Total whiff on a guy right under their noses.

Salinger

August 7th, 2018 at 1:17 PM ^

Wasn't this covered quite a bit early on? Schools sniffed around, saw he wasn't in the camp scene or looking at football, saw he had committed to play basketball, then turned their attention to kids they thought they actually had a chance of landing?


Don't get me wrong, send the kid an offer at a minimum and see if anything sticks, but there is some logic to the seemingly obvious WTF.

Watching From Afar

August 7th, 2018 at 12:03 PM ^

Hadn't really watched his tape until today (had time to watch a few minutes of it) and I'm pleasantly surprised.

Yeah he doesn't have the sudden acceleration or top end speed, but he's shifty (those step backs were impressive) and he can jump. Not saying I didn't enjoy watching Gallon get up and grab jump balls, but it'd be nice to not need the shortest WR of the bunch (out of guys like DPJ, Black, Collins) to do that. If necessary, Bell looks like he could do it though.

VicTorious1

August 7th, 2018 at 12:54 PM ^

No matter what, we just can't escape the Urban story.  The link in this story referring to the interest from KSU was actually a like to Urban knowing about the DV allegations of Smith.

Kansas State was on the verge of an offer;

yossarians tree

August 7th, 2018 at 12:59 PM ^

Yes, I'd like to see a few more 6'4" WR but this guy looks like an athlete and he can jump. And remember there always guys who are 1-star and go mid-major who end up in the HOF 15 years later.

MaizeMN

August 7th, 2018 at 1:15 PM ^

So, he's gotta be the consensus SOTY, right?

Also, maybe his nick name should be: Ronnie (Pavlov's) Bell, bc every time I watch those highlights, I begin to salivate.

Valiantvictor

August 7th, 2018 at 1:16 PM ^

I have to laugh at the "i love his tape" people. This isn't tape, this is a highlight film. Click on any prospect with a 247 profile and watch their highlight film and it will look good to most people. Tape is every play from several games.

I personally hope this kid blows my expectations for him out of the water, but the more likely scenario is that he's an average at best player at UM.

MGolem

August 7th, 2018 at 1:25 PM ^

The description of this guy sounds more like Breaston than any of the other receivers mentioned. I played bball with Breaston a few times and he was the same height with an amazing verticle. He was also shiftier than he was straight line fast. Sounds good to me. 

Saludo a los v…

August 7th, 2018 at 2:50 PM ^

I am very excited about Bell's potential and think this is one of the instances where the coaches unearthed a diamond in the rough. That is a nice highlight reel, not just a guy running past over matched high school players.  His acceleration stood out along with the ability to high point the ball in tight spaces. Kind of reminds me of Roy Roundtree.

San Diego Mick

August 7th, 2018 at 3:35 PM ^

Like many others I was apprehensive before I watched the film and boy can this kid play!

He just has natural instincts and a real nose for the football and has great hands and leaping ability. He will be at least a solid contributor before he's done and I can see him being a returner on punts and KO's cause we need that too.

Caesar

August 7th, 2018 at 4:18 PM ^

That highlight tape was so intriguing. 

He definitely has speed, though it's hard to tell because of the competition. Unlike Kent, he's putting distance on guys and gliding by--even when you're sure someone has an angle. But it's that loping, long stride. When someone is fast in that way, I don't also expect jukes and ridiculous hops. I always thought gliding/jukes-hops were different athletic profiles. Interestingly, it looks like he has all three.

As a side note: I think the way he plays is hilariously like a basketball player. He's getting some jumpman poses, even when diving horizontally into the endzone. And some of his jukes look undeniably like a jab-step. You can even see it in the way he holds the football, though that's also dangerously loose and needs to get cleaned up at Michigan.