Ronnie Bell Knows U-M's WRs Need To Improve … And He Insists They Have
Junior Ronnie Bell was far and away the Michigan Wolverines’ best football wide receiver in 2020 (his 26 catches and 401 yards both led the team), and is expected to be once again heading into the 2021 campaign.
Bell is the elder statesman of the group and was last year as well, and, as a result, developed into the leader of what was quite a young collection of wideouts in 2020 (Cornelius Johnson, Giles Jackson and Mike Sainristil were all sophomores last season).
“I don’t know when it happened, but I personally acknowledged myself as the oldest guy in the room,” Bell recalled this afternoon with reporters. “I’ve matured a ton from even last season and have grown as a player and as a person.”
“Growth” was the main sentiment Bell tried to stress to the media this afternoon while discussing U-M’s wide receiving unit, especially after the position underwhelmed in a big way in 2020 (only seven touchdown catches amongst the group and 10 drops on the year, according to Pro Football Focus).
The junior said the entire unit has acknowledged it needs to progress from last season, and the need for improvement isn't something they’re “bypassing.”
“All of us have taken our game to a different level that I hadn’t seen since I’d been here,” Bell continued. “Overall wide receiver improvement is something we need and it’s what we’re doing.
“My goal is to build on everything I’ve done with no steps backward. The whole offense is what I want to see take over and take off.”
Quarterback play will be need to be significantly better in 2021 if Michigan’s offense hopes to “take off.” Redshirt sophomore Joe Milton struggled immensely last year before transferring this winter, with redshirt freshman Cade McNamara and freshman J.J. McCarthy now viewed as the favorites to win the starting job.
The duo is light on experience (71 career passes for McNamara and none for McCarthy), though the former showed poise and accuracy in a Nov. 21 win at Rutgers, in particular, when he clawed U-M out of a 17-0 deficit before leading it to a 48-42 victory.
“It’s always cool watching how talented they [the quarterbacks] are,” Bell exclaimed, assessing the group in general. “I feel lucky because whoever is in the game, there’s no hesitation as a wide receiver having a quarterback with that much skill next to you.
“J.J. was taller than I thought he was, so that was my first impression of him. I remember first walking into the locker room and meeting him, and thinking that. Even when Cade didn’t have the job before, I knew how he attacked every day.
“That’s the kick he’s always had to him and is what makes him special — he’s never scared or shy.”
• Redshirt junior right tackle Andrew Stueber was asked earlier today about the wave of early enrollees U-M brought in this winter, and he praised the energy they’ve infused into the team.
Bell spoke about the crop of early enrolled freshmen as well, focusing on his position-mates and what he’s liked about them so far in spring ball.
“[Freshman wideout] Andrel [Anthony] and [freshman receiver] Cristian Dixon have taken to coaching and done a good job,” the junior noted. “We all have different things we need to get better at, so it’s good to see [offensive coordinator] Coach [Josh] Gattis on everyone in the receiver room.
“Once he gets to them [the freshmen], they respond and answer in practice with the way they play.”
• Bell has always been known for his basketball background in addition to his achievements on the gridiron, with his original plan actually having been to play collegiate basketball at Missouri State before signing with U-M.
Anthony — who hails from East Lansing — came to Michigan with a strong basketball background as well, though the two teammates haven’t squared off on the hardwood yet.
“There aren’t very many people on this planet who have beaten me in one-on-one, let alone in this building,” Bell laughed. “Andrel has been telling me he can hoop, but I haven’t seen him play.
“He couldn’t see me on the court — I’m too locked in. When the ball is in the air for a rebound, you go get it and aren’t worried about anything around you — that’s something easy he can take with him to football.”
• Talk about this article inside The Fort
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel
• Listen and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, The Wolverine
• Sign up for our daily newsletter and breaking news alerts
• Like us on Facebook