Alabama wide receiver Kenny Bell, a senior who caught 17 passes for 431 yards last season, has quit the program to spend more time with his kids.
Update: Wednesday, Sept. 4 – 8:50 a.m. ET
"Kenny's a fifth-year senior, he's done a great job in this program, he's played a lot of good football for us, he's made a lot of big plays, he's been a good teammate to a lot of guys on the team. He's certainly somebody I have a tremendous amount of respect for as a competitor," Saban said. "Sometimes we have personal things that we need to get ironed out.
"He had a day today to do that so there's really nothing else to talk about when it comes to that."
Bell confirmed the update on Twitter:
I'm back with the team!! Just needed time to myself for a day but I couldn't leave my boy @10AJMcCarron we ended this run together. #16— Kenny bell (@TheKennyBell7) September 4, 2013
-- END OF UPDATE --
He announced the move with a long string of cryptic tweets:
..I've been through so much I finally can say I'm happy— Kenny bell (@TheKennyBell7) September 3, 2013
..I know I'm going to lose so many friends and followers and get more negative talk from people but truth is I Dnt care— Kenny bell (@TheKennyBell7) September 3, 2013
..it's been a nice run but I'm hanging up my cleats— Kenny bell (@TheKennyBell7) September 3, 2013
..time too focus on my responsibilities MY kiDS— Kenny bell (@TheKennyBell7) September 3, 2013
..I've made so many memories here @ Alabama but some things you gotta let go— Kenny bell (@TheKennyBell7) September 3, 2013
According to Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports, who spoke with a source at Alabama, Bell's decision also concerns a lack of playing time:
WR Kenny Bell has notified Alabama staff he's quitting the team over what is believed to be a lack of playing time, according to a source— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) September 3, 2013
And per Chip Wilkinson's CBS Sports story, there's still a chance Bell returns to the team. But for now, until verifiable news surfaces, it's best to operate under the premise of his retirement.
Bell has accomplished much in his Alabama career, finishing with 712 yards, five touchdowns and a 19.8 yards-per-catch average. He caught three passes for 72 yards (including a pivotal 54-yarder) in last year's loss against Texas A&M and hauled in a 26-yard pass in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game against LSU.
Nick Saban listed Bell as a co-starter on Alabama's post-fall depth chart, splitting the top spot at the Z position with fellow senior Kevin Norwood. All-American candidate Amari Cooper and Week 1 hero Christion Jones are starters at the X and H positions, respectively.
Last year Bell enjoyed his finest season in Tuscaloosa, playing in 12 games, starting three, and taking eight of his 17 receptions for 29-plus yards. Alabama is loaded at the position (which may or may not have played a role in his retirement), but Bell was still a valuable deep threat in spot situations.
He didn't catch a pass against Virginia Tech, but AJ McCarron only had 10 completions, so there wasn't much opportunity. His departure puts an extra onus on Norwood, now the sole starter, and other capable receivers like blue-chip redshirt freshman Chris Black.
But even if the Tide can replace his production, it always hurts to lose a long-time contributor and friend. It's hard to say if the locker room knew this was coming—or whether his teammates are just as blindsided as the rest of us—so it should be interesting to see how it copes.
[h/t College Spun]