Kenny Bell spent his spring break like any other University of Nebraska – Lincoln student.
“I went home and relaxed a little bit,” he said. “It’s always good to see the family.”
But that’s as close as Bell has been to being an average UNL student. Any other week, day and hour, it’s all football for the Nebraska wide receiver.
Since the Nebraska football team’s season concluded with two losses, Bell has been training both on and off the field to make this upcoming season his best yet as a Husker.
The Boulder, Colo., native said he’s made three personal changes to advance his game to the next level.
First step: film watching
“I think that’s the one thing I’ve done to make myself better,” he said. “Just watching film and seeing the little nuances that I can improve on in my game, instead of just depending on certain skills. Being in my fourth year here – it’s cool how much I’ve learned, but there’s still so much to learn.”
And Bell hasn’t been watching the game film on his own.
The redshirt junior said he’s studied film with teammate Taylor Martinez and added that his improvements start with his relationship with the Nebraska quarterback.
“I love the kid,” he said. “I’ve always had his back and he’s always had mine. What’s nice now is the film that we’ve watched together and the time that we’ve spent together – on and off the field, especially on the field – we can tell what each other are thinking.”
Second step: maintaining and increasing relationship with the quarterback
The pair showed their chemistry with their play in the 2012-13 season.
Martinez assisted Bell in a breakout year last season, connecting with his wide receiver for 50 receptions and eight touchdowns. Bell also nearly doubled his receiving yards (863) and yards per game (35.5) from the year before (461, 35.5).
And as if the near 1,000 yards weren’t impressive enough, Bell also saw his play awarded with First-Team All-Big Ten honors at the end of the season.
With Bell and Martinez entering their third season alongside each other, Bell said the chemistry with his quarterback now is better than ever.
“There’s little things that are important as far as a relationship between a wide receiver and a quarterback,” he said. “And to know what he’s thinking on certain plays is a great asset and is something you develop over time. I think that we’re really starting to develop that together and it’s starting to show up here in spring ball.”
Nebraska wide receivers’ coach Rich Fisher said he sees it, too.
“(Bell’s) really, really matured as a person and as a player from his freshman year to his sophomore year,” Fisher said. “If he takes that same kind of approach, which he is, the sky’s the limit for a guy like him.”
And although the Huskers will have their fair share of options on who to throw to next season, fans can expect to see the ball thrown to Bell several times next fall.
“I think smart coaching is to game plan where you highlight and accentuate your good players,” Bell said. “So naturally, we’re going to want to try and get him the ball.”
After falling short of becoming the first Nebraska wideout to record 1,000 receiving yards, Bell said he admits to the milestone being one of his goals in 2013-14.
“Obviously, I would like to get to the 1,000 mark just because it’d be a pretty big deal to be the first player in history in such a historical school,” he said.
But it’s not the most important thing on the redshirt junior’s mind, he said.
The redshirt-junior’s No. 1 goal is to finish each game victorious and win a Big Ten title.
“That’s what I really care about,” Bell said. “I want to win football games with these guys that I work hard with. I’ll put personal stats by the wayside. I really want to capture a Big Ten Conference championship. That’s what my number one goal is.”
Third step: gaining weight
Since offseason training began, Bell said he now weighs 185 pounds – a three-pound difference from his weight a year ago. Since 2011, the wide receiver has added 30 pounds, something Fisher said will only benefit him at his position.
“Those gains are only functional strength gains,” Fisher said. “You can get bigger, faster and stronger all at the same time. For a guy like him, as he gets bigger he’ll get stronger, and as he gets stronger he’ll get faster. I don’t think he’ll slow down at all.”
Fisher doesn’t see Bell losing his blazing speed anytime soon.
“I don’t think he’ll slow down at all. He hasn’t, he’s just a naturally fast kid like his coach,” Fisher said with a laugh.