How Vonn Bell's Injury Impacts Ohio State's Spring Practice

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterMarch 7, 2014

Clemson quarter Tajh Boyd, right, greets Ohio State safety Vonn Bell, left, after Clemson defeated Ohio State 40-35 in the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Quarterback Braxton Miller won't be the only Ohio State player missing spring practice.

On Thursday,'s Austin Ward reported that safety Vonn Bell would be sidelined following surgery on a torn MCL that was suffered Tuesday.

Bell's loss is a tough one. Yes, there's always a next-man-up philosophy, but that doesn't make it an ideal situation.

As Bleacher Report's Michael Felder wrote on Wednesday, Ohio State is missing a chance to get better without Miller in the spring lineup. The same can be said for Bell's absence.

With the departures of senior safeties Corey Brown and C.J. Barnett, as well as the early departure of junior cornerback Bradley Roby, Ohio State's secondary was going to have a new look next season. Bell figured to be a key player in that new group.

If there's a silver lining to the injury, it's the timing. The sophomore-to-be will be back with plenty of time to catch up during offseason workouts and preseason practice.

Still, Bell really could have used the reps. Ohio State has to get better all-around—not just in the secondary—against the pass after ranking 11th in the Big Ten in pass defense and last in long passing plays allowed.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03: Vonn Bell #11 of the Ohio State Buckeyes intercepts a pass thrown by Tajh Boyd #10 of the Clemson Tigers in the second quarter during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

You can never fully account for injuries, but now Ohio State will be without a proven starter (Miller) and what appears to be a rising star in Bell.

Of course, Bell didn't play nearly as big a role for the Buckeyes in 2013 as Miller did. As a true freshman, Bell saw limited playing time. However, the former 5-star recruit and crown jewel of the 2013 recruiting class did get his first start in the Orange Bowl against Clemson.

"It was really hard for me to not play as much as I wanted to. It's something I can learn from and use to motivate me through the spring," Bell told The Plain Dealer after the Orange Bowl. "That's every young guy. It's a little bit frustrating but you've always got to be patient and wait for the right time. So I was always ready."

Heading into the 2014 season, Bell seems primed for a breakout year. He was slotted as a starter at one of the safety spots alongside Tyvis Powell. With Bell out, those first-team reps will likely go to Cam Burrows, with Ron Tanner and Jayme Thompson getting backup time.

Burrows, a converted cornerback and fellow member of the '13 recruiting class, also saw limited playing time last season.

Getting more reps for other players may help build depth at that position. With that said, losing possibly the best new player in the secondary is an unfortunate setback for a team with lofty goals year in and year out.


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Ben Kercheval is a national lead college football writer for Bleacher Report.