Traditional power. Check.
Junior with some name recognition (and a cool moniker to boot). Check.
Excellent physical measurables that have yet to be fully realized. Check.
If you are looking for a Heisman dark horse for 2013, Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell might be your best bet.
There are usually two types of Heisman candidates. The first type has already established himself as a legitimate player and is merely building upon an already-impressive resume. The other type bursts onto the scene with a huge year and becomes an instant candidate.
Here’s why I think Bell has a chance to be the latter.
We already know about his running ability. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Bell has 24 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons working primarily as a goal line specialist.
If he takes full-time snaps, those numbers should increase as a junior.
But his biggest improvement should come as a passer.
Bell has thrown a grand total of 20 passes in his career. So what can we expect of Bell in Oklahoma’s offense?
Well, if the recent past is any indication, we should expect some big things.
In the last six seasons, Oklahoma quarterbacks have averaged 501 pass attempts per year. That includes a low of 341 attempts by Sam Bradford in 2007 and a high of 617 attempts by Landry Jones in 2010.
OU quarterbacks during this time also averaged 8.2 yards per pass attempt, with a high of 9.8 by Bradford in 2008 and a low of 7.1 by Jones in 2009.
Finally, Jones and Bradford averaged a completion percentage of 65 percent, with the high being Bradford’s 69.5 in 2007 and the low Jones’s 58.1 in 2009.
So, the questions before us when trying to determine what kind of passing year Bell will have are: (1) How many passes will he attempt? (2) What will be his yards per attempt? and (3) What will be his completion percentage?
Let’s assume that, because of more mobility at quarterback and the increased emphasis on the run in the OU scheme, Bell averages just 30 pass attempts per game. That would bring his season total to roughly 400 attempts.
Let’s also assume that Bell hits on a solid, but not spectacular, 7.5 yards per attempt.
Finally, let’s say he completes 60 percent of his passes and 10 percent of those completions go for touchdowns.
That would result in a season that looks like this: 3,000 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. If Bell as a full-timer player rushes for 500 yards (which is completely realistic) and another 15 scores, we are looking at a player with 40 combined touchdowns.
As we know from looking at recent Heisman history, a quarterback becomes a legit candidate at about 45 total touchdowns. If Bell overachieves in his first year as a starter — say he attempts 450 passes and completes 66 percent of them at an 8-yard per attempt clip — then he’ll have 3,600 passing yards with 30 touchdown tosses. Add to that his likely production on the ground and we are looking at a quarterback from a traditional power with around 45 total touchdowns.
If that kind of year happens, he’ll be a lock to go to New York.
Will it happen? That is the question. Perhaps Bell will be wildly inconsistent or perhaps he’ll get beaten out by another highly-talented and mobile Sooners quarterback, Trevor Knight (who also has the potential to put up the same kind of numbers we’re musing about, eventually).
But, if Bell follows the path of recent OU signal callers, we’re likely to see some pretty good passing totals. Add in his already-established rushing credentials and we’re looking at a player who has a legit shot of putting up Tebow-like numbers for a traditional power.
And that’s why he might be the top dark horse on my post-spring Heisman Watch List.
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