ANN ARBOR, Mich — A few months ago, Michigan true freshman wide receiver Ronnie Bell was just getting to know, well, everything.
Getting to know campus, college life, his teammates. More complicated things like school at the college level, football at the college level. All of it.
But he’s had a great mentor along the way that’s helped him a lot with the latter part of it.
Back in August, senior wideout Grant Perry shared that he was rooming with Bell, and that he was excited about the first-year player’s potential. Especially considering how Bell’s talent was much more recognized on the hardwood than the football field. But, as Perry said back then, Bell came in and acclimated well.
“I get a first-hand of it this camp as well, because Ronnie Bell, the receiver who came in from Kansas City, freshman – I’m rooming with him, and he’s been asking me questions on questions in the hotel at night,” Perry said. “I’ve been quizzing him and drilling him and try to help him. Because that was me four years ago. So, I know the pain. But he’s picked it up really well.
“As a freshman coming in, you’ve got so many distractions. New place, you don’t know where you’re going. He just finished school, like summer school. He had a couple papers – it’s a lot of things to juggle especially when you’re coming in, and you’ve got this playbook and you’ve got the coaches. It’s a lot.”
“He can jump out of the gym,” Perry said. “He goes and gets the jump balls. He’s explosive, too. Really fast, good hands. And he’s picked the playbook up really well, really fast. You tell him something and he does it right. That’s good to see.”
Now, Bell is already starting to look like a polished product to some degree, having gotten two touchdowns in the last two games, both in Big Ten play.
His first touchdown came from Dylan McCaffrey in the second half against Nebraska, as Bell streaked down the sidelines after fighting off a defender. His second came this past week, when quarterback Shea Patterson split the defenders and Bell was able to turn and make a play up-field.
Perry — who himself saw major playing time as a true freshman — sees a player that’s likewise becoming more and more acclimated to his surroundings.
“I just think he’s become more comfortable with the offense,” Perry said. “We’re getting into some plays we kind of carry over from week-to-week. We go out there and we run them and he was in the right place at the right time and made a great play on the ball before the secondary could. He does that in practice as well, so it really was no surprise to us.”
It couldn’t have been a surprise to Perry, given the time he spent mentoring Bell this summer.
Bell even credits Perry for helping him understand the rigors and expectations of the college game, to go along with the playbook itself. He makes no bones about it — Perry is a big reason why he’s had some early success at Michigan.
“Grant taught me everything I know,” Bell said. “Grant, every day in camp, we’d come back from here and we’d get into the hotel room, and I’m up in the room, lining up, we’ve got the freaking couch and pillows all set up and I’m running around, lining up. He got me right in fall camp, that’s for sure.”
The wide receiver is a tough one to grasp, but it is one where, if you can pick up the playbook, the routes and be able to block, you can get on the field more quickly than at other positions.
Perry says that with Bell — who’s father coached at Missouri Western State University for 10 years — and his high football IQ, the former basketball standout already had everything it takes to be an early force on the football field.
And since the receiver position has so many players on the field at a time, Bell has done his best to go out and make the most of his opportunities.
“He picks up the game really fast,” Perry said. “He’s a really smart kid. He’s really athletic – obviously, you know of his basketball background. Just receiver is a position you could have possibly five on the field at a time, so it’s easier for guys to get on the field. And that’s the beauty of the receiver position. It’s unlike quarterback where there’s one guy back there. We can have two, three, four or five guys, so it’s cool.”