For the first time in nearly seven months, CSU running back Kyle Bell will take part in an official team practice Saturday. The last time he did so was in August of last year, days before the team’s first game of the season.
No CSU team in recent history comes to mind as being more reliant on a single player than the Rams are on Bell. After a breakout season in which Bell ran for 1,208 yards and ten touchdowns, the Bell-less Rams ranked 113th in rushing defense out of 119 NCAA teams.
Although Bell will be on the field, he said the coaches want him to take it slow on his rehabbed right knee.
“They’re going to be limiting what I do pretty well,” said Bell on his involvement in spring practice. “I’m at a point where I could go out and do anything, they just don’t want to put me in a position to set myself back.”
Bell went under the knife to repair the torn ACL he suffered in practice weeks after the injury and has been steadily rehabbing ever since. Although it can be a fairly painful process, Bell said that wasn’t the worst part about trying to come back.
“Persistence, that was the hardest part,” Bell said. “To keep going over there and doing the little things over and over again. It got monotonous. It was frustrating.”
With his first practice back in sight, all the tedious rehabbing will pay off for the junior who now has two years of eligibility left after not participating in any games last year.
While much is riding on Bell and the resurrection of a ground game that was the only one in the country that failed to produce a 400-yard back, the Rams are returning plenty of impact players from last season.
Quarterback Caleb Hanie returns to run the offense for coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt. There is hope that history will repeat itself, as five of the six CSU quarterbacks who returned after starting their junior year led the Rams to a bowl game.
H-back/tight end Kory Sperry returns after setting a school record for most touchdowns caught by a tight end in a single season. He caught five last season.
The Rams also hang on to the wearer of the Golden Boot, Jimmie Kaylor, the 17th-ranked punter in the country in average distance.
All in all the team returns 20 starters, the most Head Coach Sonny Lubick has ever had since his first year in 1993. Nine players each come from the offense and defense, in addition to two kickers.
Still, none will be watched more closely than Bell – a challenge he’s spent seven months preparing for.
“I have 100 percent confidence in what I can do,” Bell said. “Maybe I’m not ready for contact yet but my goal is to put myself in a position (so) when that time comes I feel ready.”
Football beat writer Brett Okamoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring Football Practice Times
Saturday: Time TBA
Tuesday and Thursdays through Apr. 19: 4 p.m.
All practices are open to the public. Spring football season concludes on Apr. 21 with the annual Green and Gold game at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.