Junior wideout Kenny Bell is Alabama's leading returning receiver for 2012.
One of Alabama’s biggest concerns heading into the 2012 season is how it will replace 2011 starting wide receivers Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks—and their combined 219 career receptions.
Rising junior receiver Kenny Bell has caught just 19 passes in his two years at the Capstone, but he enters the fall as the leading candidate to emerge as quarterback A.J. McCarron’s go-to target this season.
The Rayville (LA) native is the leading returning receiver for Nick Saban’s offense after snaring 17 passes for 255 yards and a pair of touchdown receptions in 2011.
While those numbers may not strike fear in opposing defenses, Saban called Bell the team’s most consistent playmaker in the spring—which bodes well for fans hoping to see Bell’s production increase exponentially this season.
So what can fans expect out of Bell this fall?
Here are four things you need to know about Kenny Bell.
On a team in search of playmakers, Bell is one returning player expected to step his game up a few levels this season.
It’s hard to imagine Alabama’s offense maintaining its efficiency without someone stepping up—especially considering that the Tide lost its top four targets from a year ago.
While there are fewer doubts about the backfield, the concerns about Alabama’s receiver unit seem valid.
All eyes are on Bell—who leads a group that has a nice blend of experience, youth and talent but is light on production.
It may be unfair to put that kind of pressure on one player, but Bell may be the most important player that needs to produce if Alabama hopes to remain one of the top offenses in the SEC.
Bell had a strong spring game, collecting five receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Alabama had only two receptions go for more than 40 yards in 2011. Bell was responsible for one of them, a 41-yard touchdown pass from McCarron on a flea-flicker against Auburn.
The duo connected on a similar play in the spring game that resulted in a 47-yard scoring strike.
While Alabama struggled in creating big plays in the passing game last season, Bell looks to be the biggest threat to reverse that trend in 2012.
Saban praised Bell as the team's most consistent playmaker throughout spring practices.
In addition to earning praise from Saban for his consistency in the spring, Bell was identified by Crimson Tide corner Dee Milliner as one of the toughest weapons Alabama’s vaunted secondary has to defend on a daily basis in practice.
Clearly, in the eyes of his coaches and teammates, Bell is deserving of the chance to become a bigger part of the Crimson Tide’s attack this season.
Bell has positioned himself to be the team's No. 1 receiver heading into fall camp.
The main question surrounding Bell entering the season is, can he step up and be a reliable No. 1 receiver for McCarron this season?
No one is expecting Bell to be as dominant as former Crimson Tide star Julio Jones—but it wouldn’t be surprising for him to top Maze’s numbers (56 catches, 627 yards and one touchdown) from a year ago.
The good news for Bell is that he doesn’t have to produce All-SEC-caliber statistics for him to be an effective receiver in Alabama’s offense—after all, the Crimson Tide won it all last season with limited production from their pass-catching unit.
However, the 6’1”, 180-pounder has put in the necessary work in the offseason to help him meet the challenge of becoming the Crimson Tide’s go-to wide receiver in 2012.