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