TUSCALOOSA — Kenny Bell hinted to his future in the not-so-distant past.
Once buried on the receiver depth chart, the Alabama sophomore broke a few big ones as his time neared. That time is now.
Since 64 percent of the Crimson Tide’s 2011 receiving yardage and the top four targets departed, Bell figures to be at the forefront of an evolving offense. He was No. 5 on the receiving list a year ago with a few big games sprinkled in.
Two late-season catches stood out. Bell was on the receiving end of a perfectly-executed flea flicker resulting in a 41-yard touchdown that kick started a 42-14 pounding of Auburn. A few weeks later, he took a quick screen 26 yards up the sideline on a fast-break drive that opened the BCS title game second half.
“The momentum I had last year from being in the championship game,” Bell said, “I carried it into this year.”
And that figures to be a whole new world for the Alabama offense.
New coordinator Doug Nussmeier and shifting personnel means spring practice requires “learning a new offense,” Bell said.
Though early in the process with just a few practices in the books, this new approach appears to include added sizzle.
“It’s more down the field and more explosive for the receivers,” Bell said.
It’s not a complete overhaul, though. The biggest adjustment is learning terminology that changed since former offensive coordinator Jim McElwain took the head job at Colorado State.
So far, Alabama coach Nick Saban likes what he’s seeing from Bell. He said the Rayville, La., product “is making lots of plays,” early in spring practice.
Anticipating an increased role, Bell hit the weight room since January. He added close to 10 pounds to approach the neighborhood of 200.
But, as Bell showed in the big play against LSU in January, he hasn’t lost a step with the extra size.
Cornerback Dee Milliner can testify to that.
“Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White, those guys can flat out run,” said Milliner, a third-year starter. “Once they get going, it’s kinda hard to get with them.”
White, slowed by a hamstring injury this spring, is among the group competing for playing time vacated by Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, and Brandon Gibson. Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones also factor into the race that involves a few true freshman and possibly the mysterious Duron Carter.
“I think Amari Cooper, he and Chris Black, have both shown good ability,” Saban said. “Anytime you have freshmen, it’s just a matter of, are these guys going to be able to play with the consistency, continue to improve, not get frustrated and not be up and down because they don’t have the maturity to sustain things? That will be the key to how those guys develop, but I do think both of those guys can make a contribution.”