Better Know A Buckeye: Vonn Bell

By Vico on July 31, 2013 at 11:30a
46 Comments

Eleven Warriors presents Better Know a Buckeye 2013

Vonn BellVonn Bell

The twenty-fourth, and final, installment of the fifth edition of this now 24-part series titled Better Know A Buckeye profiles arguably the crown jewel of Ohio State's 2013 football recruiting class. Vonn Bell, a defensive back from Chattanooga, Tennessee, surprised just about everyone when he announced he was going to sign with Ohio State on National Letter of Intent Day.

Bell did well to keep information close to the proverbial vest. Bell said less about recruiting and what interested him about particular schools as time progressed. Increasingly, information came from either his father or, in particular, his high school head coach. It was consistently a three-team race among Alabama, Ohio State, and Tennessee. Alabama looked to be the odds-on favorite in December. Tennessee looked like it was in the lead at the end of January. Vonn Bell signed with Ohio State in February. I retell this story below.

The feature proceeds in the usual fashion thereafter. I provide a discussion of strengths and areas for improvement. I include some highlights and a projection of redshirt status. I provide some various tidbits about Bell you may find interesting before concluding he is better known. I put him on the board thereafter.

Height: 6-1
Weight: 190 pounds
Fake 40: 4.45
High School: Ridgeland High School; Rossville, Georgia

 

His Recruitment

Ohio State's recruitment of Vonn Bell started at the end of Feb. 2012 when it extended a verbal scholarship offer. Ohio State was far from the first program to notice Bell. By the time Bell was given a note from his high school head coach to call Everett Withers in order to be notified of his verbal scholarship offer, he had already acquired offers from programs like Alabama, Georgia Oklahoma State, and Tennessee. His first offer was from Georgia, which came after a junior season at Ridgeland that ended in 180 tackles (119 solo tackles), five interceptions, three forced fumbles and three recoveries for touchdowns on defense. He also had 37 rushes for 280 yards, 31 catches for 487 yards, and 11 total touchdowns on offense. Bell went from zero to elite immediately. Ohio State entered the fray as soon as it could.

To most people's surprise, there was a lot trending to Ohio State early in the process. The interest in Ohio State was understandable. He has family that reside in Dayton and had made trips to Columbus previously. Further, Urban Meyer's arrival at Ohio State increased the allure of an already visible (for better and sometimes worse) Ohio State football program. While the interest in Ohio State was not necessarily surprising, the extent to which Ohio State seemed to take command of his recruitment through the spring and summer was surprising.

Ohio State's verbal scholarship offer led to Ohio State being penciled into the Bell's itinerary on a cross-country spring break trip that included stops at Texas, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Notre Dame, and Georgia. While talking with a Rivals.com affiliate about his trip to Athens, Georgia, Bell said the previous stop at Ohio State stood out because of Urban Meyer.

The momentary advantage that Ohio State enjoyed through the spring extended into the summer when Ohio State's coaches were able to convince Vonn Bell to attend a summer football camp they were hosting early in June. Ohio State fans may remember this as the camp in which Darron Lee performed and earned his verbal scholarship offer. Bell and Lee faced off in several drills to the interest of several onlookers at the camp, and at the request of Ohio State's coaches. Both performed well, leading to the continued interest in Bell and the eventual scholarship offer to (and commitment of) Darron Lee.

Importantly, for Ohio State, it actually got Bell to make the trip to Columbus from Chattanooga for a camp, which is no small commitment from Bell and family. It was a clear signal of interest from Bell. It was also the only camp Bell attended during that summer. At summer's end, when Vonn Bell named his "top seven", Ohio State was mentioned first. That list also included Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Vanderbilt.

This changed a month later, and for the worse, when Vonn Bell announced a top three: Alabama, Ohio State, and Tennessee (in alphabetical order). Ohio State appeared to fall behind both Alabama and Tennessee, and Alabama, in particular, during the football season. A big factor seemed to be distance. Bell tried to schedule a visit to Ohio State for the Nebraska game, but the logistics of the trip proved to be demanding. Bell was looking at possibly scheduling a 2 a.m. flight from Nashville to Columbus, only to be back in Chattanooga by Sunday so he can prepare for the daily 40 mile ride to his high school in Rossville, Georgia.

It proved difficult for Bell to schedule a visit to Ohio State where he could give himself a chance of enjoying himself. It was much easier to schedule several unofficial visits around the Southeast, where all colleges tend to be, at most, within a five or six hour drive. These visits included Vanderbilt (for the South Carolina game), Alabama (for the Western Kentucky game), Auburn (for the Louisiana State game), Alabama again (for the game against Mississippi), Tennessee (for the Alabama game), and Alabama yet again (for the Iron Bowl).

The reader will notice the trend here. Alabama seemed to surge in front of this race for Bell as Bell found it difficult to visit Ohio State for a game experience, and as the wheels fell off Derek Dooley's wagon in Knoxville. The Chattanooga Times Free Press even noted that, if not for Derek Dooley's stumbles in recruiting in-state and managing the program in Knoxville, Bell would have committed to Tennessee by this point. He was a fan of the Volunteers in his youth. Whatever the case, Ohio State was falling behind.

Ohio State's postseason ban may have actually been the turning point. In hindsight, the nature of Nebraska's Big Ten Championship Game performance, and Notre Dame's BCS Championship Game performance, suggests that the postseason ban for 2012 was truly akin to forgoing a national championship in lieu of a Gator Bowl appearance the year prior. While Ohio State's coaches were frustrated that there was nothing left to do for its 2012 football team after beating Michigan, the coaches decided to invest fully in 2013. It was going to start with Vonn Bell, who may have been the highest priority for Ohio State's coaches.

If Bell was unable to visit Ohio State, then Ohio State was going to come to him. Bell momentarily shut down his recruitment as his Ridgeland Panthers focused on a state championship run. When Ridgeland advanced to the state championship game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Urban Meyer and Everett Withers came down to watch. They were noticed in the stands almost immediately. Amateur video of their arrival was even taken. They sat with the Ridgeland fans, looking like invited guests of the Bells. They sat together to watch the game. Meyer even brought his daughter, Nikki (a Georgia Tech student athlete), to the Georgia Dome. Following Ridgeland's 45-10 loss in the state championship game, Urban Meyer, his daughter, and Everett Withers visited the Ridgeland locker room. The investment of Meyer and Withers' time resonated with both the Bells and Ridgeland's coachNick Saban was also at this game to watch Vonn Bell, but Urban Meyer made the bigger splash.

Everett Withers, Vonn Bell, Urban Meyer, and Nikki Meyer after Ridgeland's state championship game loss to Sandy Creek

It also gave a lifeline to Ohio State's recruitment of Bell. Shortly thereafter, Ohio State was able to convince Bell to schedule an official visit to Ohio State, where he would be provided the opportunity to relax and enjoy himself a bit with his football season concluded. He scheduled all three of his official visits in January, in succession. It started with a trip to Ohio State, then to Alabama, before concluding with Tennessee.

Bell enjoyed all three of his visits. He had to cut the Ohio State visit short by a day so he could be home in Chattanooga by Sunday. This led him to miss the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game, which saw Ohio State beat Michigan and prevent the Wolverines from securing the AP No. 1 ranking. Nick Saban met with Bell shortly thereafter, preceding his official visit to Alabama the next weekend. The next week, Bell was visited by almost the entirety of Tennessee's new coaching staff. Butch Jones was going to put on the full court press for Bell that Tennessee fans begrudged Derek Dooley for not doing sooner. His visit the following weekend went well. In fact, it went so well that, come National Letter of Intent Day, it seemed like Bell was Tennessee-bound. Some analysts were even reporting it.

Entering the morning of National Letter of Intent Day, Everett Withers was in knots over Bell's impending decision. Withers invested a lot of time and energy into pursuing Bell and convincing him to come to Ohio State. His anxiety over the upcoming press conference even seemed to annoy Urban Meyer, who recounted getting on the treadmill at the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex just so he could be away from Withers. With Vonn Bell's decision forthcoming, Bell's father, Vencent, sent this encouraging message to Withers via phone call.

"(His) dad told me at the end of the night, he said, 'Coach, live on your body of work because you’ve done all you can do. Sleep well,'" Withers said.

His Commitment

On National Letter of Intent Day, Vonn Bell capped Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class in fashion by announcing a commitment to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

 

 

The decision was a surprise for Ohio State's fans as well as Ohio State's coaches. No doubt the coaches as well heard the rumblings that Tennessee led for Bell and was going to get his signature on National Letter of Intent Day. Meyer, irritated a bit with Withers' anxiety over Bell's impending decision, decided to get on the treadmill to work off his own anxieties before having to face the media about his recruiting class, sans Vonn Bell. While on the treadmill, Meyer's phone rang. It was Vonn Bell. Meyer may have assumed he was getting some bad news.

Meyer was hoping to get a call from Bell, a top safety prospect from Rossville, Ga., but he was not sure if it was coming — not sure whether Ohio State would cap its recruiting class with a pluck from Southeastern Conference territory — so Meyer was running in place to relieve stress.

In putting together what the recruiting services called a consensus top-three class in the country, Meyer said wooing Bell had been the toughest, at times pitting Ohio State against Alabama and, finally, Bell’s childhood favorite Tennessee. Co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers had been the lead recruiter but told Bell that if he had good news, to call Meyer.

“He said, ‘You know I’m in, right?' " said Meyer, who replied, " 'No, I didn’t know you’re in.' "

Meyer sent his congratulations to Bell, relieved that he could expect good news on ESPNU while the rest of the country watched.

For Bell, the realization that the choice was going to be Ohio State came two nights before National Letter of Intent Day.

What was the biggest secret you kept during the recruiting process? “I didn’t really have any secrets. I kept everything all open with everybody. But about the biggest secret was probably keeping it secret (about Ohio State) until signing day. The first two days (before signing day), I just woke up out of my dreams. Me and God just had a conversation. He said ‘I want you go to Ohio State.’ Then I just knew ever since then. That was probably the longest time I ever kept a secret, those two days.

You had a conversation with God in your dreams? “He just woke me up in the middle of my sleep, and I just heard ‘Ohio State’ in my head. I just listened to it, and stuck with it. Ohio State was in my heart.” That was two days before signing day? “Yes. I didn’t know (which college I was going to sign with) until then. I asked God to give me a sign, and He gave me a sign. I woke up the middle of the night."

Bell also addressed why he chose Ohio State over Alabama and Tennessee. He appears to have committed as much to Urban Meyer as he did to Ohio State. Bell's comments were effusive in praise for his future head coach.

“Coach Urban Meyer has the juice, has the energy for those young guys,” Bell said. “He’s gonna get us guys from down South, where he know ‘em from, ‘cause he was at Florida. He knows where to get ‘em from.”

[...]

“He’s a players’ coach,” Bell said. “That energy, that relationship he builds with his players. You know, it’s not always business. It’s a family-oriented place, you know? Those coaches, you’re gonna be around their family and their kids, and they’re gonna teach you how to be a man and develop you in that stage, too. It’s a real good time around him. You can just feel the energy. It’s a real positive energy around that coaching staff.”

Bell's signature with Ohio State pushed the Buckeyes to a consensus top three ranking among all recruiting classes in the country.

Where He Excels​

There is much to like in Vonn Bell's highlight film. Tallying 300 tackles in two years at Ridgeland High School certainly suggests an active defender who could project as a ballhawk at the next level.

Bell's greatest strength as a safety could be that he plays the ball like a receiver. He has great hands for a defensive back, but that comment is more about his body and how he positions himself for the ball. Other defensive backs, even good ones, are content with swatting the ball from the receiver or making contact with the receiver to jar the ball loose. Bell behaves as if that ball is his. He really has a receiver's mindset when the ball is in the air. That is a great superlative to have.

He is fast for a safety. He has almost a cornerback's speed. Listed as just a "defensive back" on Ohio State's roster, that might indicate he could get some time at the position. It seems unlikely at this point, but that speed projects to all facets of the game. He is fast off his breaks, changes direction quickly, and closes on the ball carrier with a fury. The gear also kicks up after an interception. He looks like a home run threat after an interception.

Must Work On​

I've read some knocks on Bell for his tackling ability. I think that requires some clarification. Bell tackles well. He does not show many bad impulses that kids learn from the "hit stick" on their video games. He wraps and drives to the ground. I think the critique is that he tackles a bit too high sometimes. He creeps from his stance when preparing for an open field tackle. It makes him easier to shed at the next level.

The big question is about his strength. It is adequate right now, but adequate is not adequate for Ohio State. If Bell aspires to be the headhunter from the first day of fall camp that he says he wants to be, he needs to get some work done in the weight room. He measures right now at 190 pounds. He can play right now, but he would not be particularly imposing in the secondary.

Highlights​

Senior year.

 

 

Redshirt?

No.

The real question right now is the extent of his role on this team. Consider that Vonn Bell will wear No. 6 this year despite there being no No. 7, the jersey number Bell wants, on defense. He might be playing special teams along with Jordan Hall.

Miscellany

  • Bell was born in Kansas, and lived part of his youth in Texas, before moving to Chattanooga.
  • His brother, Volonte, plays basketball at Ohio Valley University. He was previously at Cleveland State University.
  • While Vonn Bell may have committed to Urban Meyer as much as he committed to Ohio State, future position coach Everett Withers should be credited as much as Meyer with this victory. He was in Chattanooga so routinely, checking on Vonn Bell, that he got to know a local barber there on a first name basis. Ask him for barbecue joints around Chattanooga.
  • He was the first ever Tennessee native to be named to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "Super 11".
  • His head coach, Mark Mariakis, did an interview with Eleven Warriors.
  • He played his first two years at Chattanooga Central High School. He transferred to Ridgeland High School in Rossville, Georgia before his junior year. His mother works in the district, which made him eligible for the transfer.
  • I never got a clear answer on how Vonn Bell and Darron Lee knew each other before that camp at Ohio State in June, but apparently they knew of each other. Darron Lee lived in Chattanooga through middle school before his mother, Candice Lee, took a job with NBC4 in Columbus. Apparently, Lee knew Volonte Bell, Vonn Bell's brother, through little league baseball.
  • As a senior, he rushed for 1,050 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also tallied 140 tackles while playing on defense.
  • He played in the Under Armour All-American Game, along with Marcus Baugh, Joey Bosa, Cam Burrows, Gareon Conley, Trey Johnson, Jalin Marshall, and Dontre Wilson.
  • Vanderbilt's signing day "war room" let out a loud cheer when Bell announced he was signing with the Buckeyes over the Volunteers.
  • This Tennessee fan was not at all happy with Vonn Bell's decision...

On that note, I think Vonn Bell is better known.

The More You Know


This should do it for the 2013 recruiting class. Let's put him on the board with everyone else. 

Name POS Ht Wt Hometown Committed Better Known
Cameron Burrows DB 5'11 200 Trotwood, OH 01.19.12 02.19.13
Jalin Marshall WR 5'11 196 Middletown, OH 01.30.12 02.26.13
Billy Price DT 6'4 300 Austintown, OH 02.13.12 03.05.13
Eli Apple DB 6-1 188 Voorhees, NJ 02.16.12 03.12.13
Evan Lisle OL 6-5 280 Centerville, OH 02.28.12 03.19.13
Jayme Thompson S 6-2 184 Toledo, OH 04.01.12 03.26.13
Ezekiel Elliott RB 6-0 195 St. Louis, MO 04.01.12 04.02.13
Marcus Baugh TE 6-4 233 Riverside, CA 04.10.12 04.09.13
Tracy Sprinkle DE 6-3 255 Elyria, OH 04.17.12 04.17.13
J.T. Barrett QB 6-1 230 Wichita Falls, TX 04.18.12 04.24.13
Joey Bosa DE 6-5 270 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 04.23.12 05.01.13
Darron Lee ATH 6-3 205 New Albany, OH 06.26.12 05.08.13
Michael Hill DT 6-3 315 Pendleton, SC 06.27.12 05.15.13
Timothy Gardner OL 6-5 310 Indianapolis, IN 07.28.12 05.22.13
Tyquan Lewis DE 6-3 237 Tarboro, NC 09.20.12 05.29.13
Gareon Conley CB 6-1 180 Massillon, OH 12.07.12 06.05.13
Donovan Munger DT 6-4 285 Shaker Heights, OH 12.09.12 06.12.13
Trey Johnson LB 6-2 225 Lawrenceville, GA 01.04.13 06.19.13
Mike Mitchell LB 6-4 225 Plano, TX 01.05.13 06.26.13
Christopher Worley ATH 6-3 190 Cleveland, OH 01.11.13 07.03.13
Corey Smith WR 6-0 175 Akron, OH 01.29.13 07.10.13
Dontre Wilson ATH 5-10 175 DeSoto, TX 02.04.13 07.17.13
James Clark WR 5-10 175 New Smyrna Beach, FL 02.06.13 07.24.13
Vonn Bell S 6-1 190 Chattanooga, TN 02.06.13 07.31.13

 

46 Comments

Comments

703Buckeye's picture

Vonn is going to be a great one for the Bucks!
I love watching the reaction of that Tennessee fan, poor dude was crushed, lol.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

Oldschoolbuck's picture

Is it just me or does Vol fan look a little like Greg Allman (at least when he had the shades on)?
That dude's whole week was ruined!

tennbuckeye19's picture

Yeah, but he's not gonna let 'em catch the midnight rider.

mh277907's picture

I let out a very loud yell when I watched his announcement live.

buckeyebobcat

AndyVance's picture

One of the two major highlights of signing day, for sure, was Bell's surprise announcement (along with Clark's). My wife really gave me grief for whooping it up like I'd just won the SuperBowl when he put that Block-O cap on.

buckz4evr's picture

Great article.  And yes, I 'better know a Buckeye.'  As a matter of fact, I better know 24 Buckeyes.  Thanks for all the work that went into this series.  I really enjoyed it.

Urban Nation Army's picture

Bell a WR?

Bet you can't say "Bert Bielma is a bumbling buffoon" five times fast.

Hovenaut's picture

Just to confirm that, uh, fan is not Clay Travis.

Or is he?

Grayskullsession's picture

I just woke up out of my dreams. Me and God just had a conversation. He said ‘I want you go to Ohio State.’ Then I just knew ever since then. That was probably the longest time I ever kept a secret, those two days.

High Five God, High Five!

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

BuckeyeSouth's picture

I've always suspected God was a Buckeye fan!

Embrace it.

Codeezy's picture

Maybe God is an Urban Meyer fan. Worked for Sharif Floyd, either way, glad he's in our corner. 

Crimson's picture

Meyer: "Everett, planting that two-way radio in Vonn Bell's room on our in home visit was the best idea you've ever had!"

Squirrel Master's picture

I thought they used a transistor in a filling in his tooth.

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

Poison nuts's picture

You've been touching yourself Kent.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

droessl's picture

I know I should feel this way about every recruit, but I've got a feeling we're going to REALLY like this guy! 

BTBuckeye's picture

I was hoping this article would have a little bit more "meat on the bones" lol
Nice work

hit_the_couch's picture

Pretty much the whole class was a highlight. It's probably the best, on paper, i've seen at Ohio State other than maybe one or two of the Cooper classes.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

gobucks96's picture

Love stories like this when the recruit is ours... Sorry, a little bias shows.

rkylet83's picture

Wow!  I have to stop watching highlights of this class; the anticipation for football is killing me!

OSUStu's picture

This was without a doubt the most excited I have ever been to watch a prospect commit.  What a huge get.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

iamcbs's picture

Thanks Vico, this is a great series and while I don't follow Recruiting very much. I enjoy reading this series and getting to know them better. Great Job!!

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep, I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion~Alexander the Great

BKLYN_Buckeye's picture

My favorite recruit from 2013. I remember seeing a photo of Butch Jones the day before NLOID on the phone with a huge smile on his face- everyone (myself included) thought he just procured Bell. When he announced, I was shocked. So stoked to have him on our team.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

Gotta love Divine intervention!
 

Ethos's picture

With Roby possibly out looks like he may get his chance after all

"What do you need water for, Sunshine?!" - Coach Coombs, if you don't love this man, you have no soul.

UrbanBuckeye's picture

Can't tell you why, but I have always felt like Bell will end up being a 1st round NFL pick ever since I first saw his film over a year ago. Think he will be an absolute ballhawk in the secondary. Loves to lay the lumber too!

In Urban We Trust!

HotSauceCommittee's picture

Really enjoyed these throughout the summer Vico!  Next year's group will be just as amazing!
Cheers!

UrbanBuckeye's picture

The play at 2:38 is unreal.

In Urban We Trust!

Unky Buck's picture

Man, I remember the elation that I felt sitting at my desk (getting nothing done, mind you) when he announced he was coming to the good guys. Still get chills when I see that video. Can't wait for him to be able to make his mark in that secondary.

...

MN Buckeye's picture

Awesome job, VICO! I just relived the entire Vonn Bell recruitment, including watching all the videos. While this class may go down as one of the best in our history, the best story came last. How Withers and Meyer handled this recruitment was amazing. Bell and his family are amazing. I even have become a fan of James Franklin, coach at Vandy. 
For Bell it was all about relationships. Now he is a part of the larger family of tOSU enjoying them (even coach Marotti, I hope).

OldColumbusTown's picture

I have a cousin who works/teaches down near Chattanooga, and has apparently had a great deal of interaction with Vonn's dad through some YMCA programs.  She has nothing but great things to say about the Bell family.
Can't wait to see Vonn knock some skulls this year!

Squirrel Master's picture

Was it god that woke Bell up in the middle of the night with Ohio State or...
 
 
 

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

HighBallAce's picture

It was God cause Ohio State is God's country!!!! Haven't you ever seen the rays beaming down from Heaven on Ohio Stadium?

leezy531's picture

buddy of mine is the assistant recruiting coordinator at vandy, and according to him, he was the one that directed them to push bell to osu. not sure how much weight is in that, but you can all thank me..hahaha

tennbuckeye19's picture

I had heard that that was the case. I didn't know if it was true or not. When Vandy knew they were out of the running, I had heard that they really didn't want him to go to another SEC school (especially not UT) and have to play against him. 

TWCBUCKEYE's picture

This is my favorite recruit from this class. Couple years from now first round pick.

"Nothing cleanses your soul like getting the [Mark May] kicked out of you."

Colorado Johnny's picture

This guy is gonna be beast. Beast mode 24/7. scUM killer. Soul taker.

Lloyd Carrs Scowl's picture

This is probably my favorite series of articles on here. Great insight into the players whose names I will soon be shouting on Saturday afternoons.

Hayesedandconfused's picture

By far my favorite recruit of this class. I think this kid is going to be something special.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great article Vico.  Vonn is going to end up being a great Buckeye defender!  Can't wait to see him on the field!
Go Bucks!

ScarletGray43157's picture

I think this young man could be a special one.  

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

GR8TBUCKS's picture

 Vico, any chance we get one of these for the Aussie punter that made number 25 for 2013? It would be a nice way to finish off this class. Thanks for all that 11w does.

MY BUTT'S SO BIG, I SPLIT MY PJ BOTTOMS

dubjayfootball90's picture

Nice write-up. Very interesting recruitment. This man is going to be a great player, and hopefully a better student!

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Poison nuts's picture

I'm thinking this the end of the series (unless punter), which I have read each of & thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks for the stellar work on this Vico - helped with the off season a great deal!

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.