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A college sports blog from The Oakland Press, dedicated to covering Michigan and Michigan State athletics as well as former Oakland County athletes at other schools.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

MSU gets impressive debut from RB Le'Veon Bell

Of The Oakland Press
EAST LANSING — Le’Veon Bell stepped to the podium in the postgame press conference, flashed a shy smile and said quietly, “Uh, this is the first time I’ve ever done this, so ...”
Could’ve fooled most people who were at Spartan Stadium on Saturday to witness Bell’s debut in a Michigan State uniform, watching him become the first true freshman in program history to record a 100-yard game in his first game.
He looked like a seasoned veteran up until that point.
Filling in for Larry Caper, who was held out with a minor hand injury, Bell rumbled for 141 yards and two TDs on just 10 carries, pairing with Edwin Baker to give the Spartans a pair of 100-yard rushers in one game for the first time since 2006.
Michigan State had one back top 100 yards all of last year.
“I thought I had a pretty decent day today,” said the 6-foot-2, 230 pound Bell. “I always dreamed about something like this, you know? For my first time ever coming on a college field, it was just a great experience.”
The coaches decided to keep Caper — one of their two true freshman RBs from a year ago, along with Baker — out of the lineup as a precaution, letting Bell know as early as Tuesday that he’d get a good deal of work in the season opener against Western Michigan.
“I was real nervous,” said Bell, who admitted the early notice helped build the butterflies a bit. “My first play was actually on punts, so it wasn’t that bad. I was very nervous, once I came out there. Once I got that first hit, it drove all the butterflies away.”
He and Baker didn’t have a tremendously heavy workload — combining for just 27 carries — but they were murderously effective, helping the Spartans average 8 yards per carry, and 297 total rushing yards.
“We found a variety of run plays worked. Sometimes you get into a game, and only one play will be the one that works, and your other stuff doesn’t, and we found that we could bounce from inside zone, to outside zone, to gap runs. And it was all working. Which is good, to know that we can be multiple in the run game, and keep defenses on their toes, which will help going forward,” said MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins. “If we run the ball like we did today, my job will be very easy this year.”
Everyone knew about the Oak Park graduate, Baker, who’d led the Spartans in rushing four of the last seven games last year, after the coaches had flirted with redshirting him. But Bell could become a household name just as quickly.
Coaches had been gushing about him for awhile.
“I think he’s been a pleasant surprise, as far back as the spring. When he enrolled early last spring, he immediately got the attention of the coaches, as well as his teammates, in just his natural ability,” MSU offensive coordinator Don Treadwell said. “No. 1, he has the size you’d like for a Big Ten back, but the certain things he has that we call intangibles — as you all know, you can only coach them so far — and he exhibited those out there today. He has great vision for a running back. He has excellent feet for a guy his size.
“Obviously, we’re very excited about him. We think the sky’s the limit, as we keep moving forward.”
As the staff moves forward, it will have to figure out how to sort out what’s becoming a logjam at running back again.
Despite several other players moving in and out of the rotation throughout last season, Bell and Caper were the primary workhorses as true freshmen. Bell would make a third wheel for this season. And diminutive-yet-speedy Nick Hill, from Chelsea, is another freshman who may be able to carve himself out a spot in the playing group.
That gives Treadwell and the offensive coaches the task of sorting out who will get the carries.
“One thing, if want to say you have a stable, you want to have them at running back, because there’s a lot of wear and tear in the Big Ten, with the amount of games that we play,” Treadwell said. “If anything, it can be a good problem to have enough backs to carry the load for us this year.”

Rouse done for season
Head coach Mark Dantonio announced Saturday that fullback Josh Rouse, who left the game under his own power, would be out for the season with a neck injury. Dantonio said that Rouse would have surgery on a vertebra in his neck later Saturday night.
“It was an emotional thing, I think, for our football team at halftime,” Dantonio said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Josh at this point.”

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