By Nate Allen
FAYETTEVILLE – Finally as an Arkansas fifth-year senior, Jamario Bell chimes in the right position in the right health, playing the right way.
All those rights make Bell the wrong man for opposing quarterbacks to see.
As a Razorbacks defensive end, the 6-5, 265, Junction City native has caused opposition Dysfunction Junction 3.5 times this season ending plays wrapping quarterbacks sacked.
That leads the 2-3 Razorbacks in sacks this season, a major feat given Bell only played in three of their five games. He also stopped one running play for a loss thus cramming 4.5 lost yardage plays in his total six tackles.
The Bret Bielema Arkansas regime that recruited Bell envisioned this kind of performance or its offensive equivalent. They never got it as Bell bandied about as a defensive tackle, tight end, offensive tackle, linebacker and defensive end starting with his 2015 redshirt year and a 2016 wasted year switching positions without consistently grasping one.
In preseason 2017 it all came together. He was working first team. Then he broke his foot and missed the next 10 weeks finally playing the season’s last two games on special teams.
Under 2018 new head coach Chad Morris, defensive coordinator John Chavis and defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell, Bell last year finally logged a decent full season playing 11 of the 2-10 Hogs’ 12 games.
With Dorian Gerald, lost to a season-ending injury in the first game, Gabe Richardson and Bell the only seniors among a defensive end crew of true freshmen, the staff counted on Bell at this season’s outset.
After the season-opener and his half a sack in the 20-13 victory over Portland State they missed him the next two games injured again. This time a knee.
Bell rehabbed avidly determined to make good his going into this last go-round urgency that actually commenced with last winter’s workouts with strength coach Trumain Carroll.
“The offseason really helped me just coming in and just working with Coach Tru and his staff,” Bell said. “Just finishing empty every day, just giving everything we have. I really did come into this season knowing that this is my last season, knowing that I really have to go ahead and just pick it up and make sure that I do everything I can to make sure at the end of the day I can say I did everything I could.”
While the Hogs didn’t appear inspired until second half too late of their 31-24 loss to three-touchdowns underdog San Jose State, Bell returned all game inspired. His three tackles included a sack and a 4-yard running loss plus he forced a fumble.
In Arkansas’ surprisingly close 31-27 SEC loss to three-touchdowns favorite Texas A&M, Bell twice sacked elusive Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond.
Indeed he finally feels he’s playing the right position in the right health in the right way.
“I just felt like every time I’d get on good a hot streak to get myself going there would be just a small thing that sets me back,” Bell said. “But God is still with me and I’m still here now.”
And playing divinely.
“It’s exciting,” Chavis said. “He brings a lot to the table in terms of experience and he’s a very good competitor. It was good to see him back.”Really good, opines senior defensive tackle and Hope High graduate McTelvin “Sosa” Agim.
“He’s getting off the ball and he’s making plays,” Agim said. “He’s running his stunts correctly and he’s grown so much. He knows exactly what to do when it’s time to do it.”
Using last week’s open date further strengthening the still recovering knee, Bell comes ready to chime in Saturday night’s SEC game against the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, Ky.
Though Arkansas has six games left post Saturday, the approach is Lexington marks Bell’s last toll. “We are in a one-game season,” Bell said. “Kentucky is our last game the way we look at it. Every day, just taking it one day at a time.”
Bell seems sufficiently inspired on his own but says he draws further inspiration from Dorian Gerald, still avidly concerned with and interacting with the team though too injured to play, and Mataio Soli, the true freshman starting every game at defensive end despite a club-like cast protecting a broken hand.
“It is really amazing what a guy can do with one hand as a freshman,” Bell said “A lot of guys would just come in and complain about how ‘I can’t get off blocks,’ but he just goes out there and works every day.”