Brandon Bell shows few cracks

Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J./Oakcrest) is the highest-rated linebacker commit at Linebacker U, so NittanyNation decided to take a closer look at the man who could be the next big thing at Penn State.

NittanyNation retraced his senior season by speaking to half of the opposing head coaches, and they shared their impressions and memories of the 6-foot, 222-pound prospect. Opinions varied, but one thing all the coaches could agree on: Penn State added a great player.


Egg Harbor Township 14, Oakcrest 9
Opponent's final record: 4-6
Stat line: Defense -- 13 tackles (11 solo), one tackle for loss, two fumble recoveries. Offense -- Six carries for 2 yards; two catches for 40 yards.

Egg Harbor Township coach Tony Derosa

On preparing for Bell: "We knew he was a big, strong, physical kid and was very good running plays down from the backside. So, looking at the film, our kind of thing was to try to get him blocked on the backside because he's going to track down plays and keep coming at you. We won that game 14-9 and, the two times we scored, he was out of the game [due to cramps]. And every time he was out, we would try to run a trap up the middle and were successful with that. Brandon was just all over the field that game. It seemed like he was in on every tackle."

On the play in the game where Bell impressed him most: "We had starters coming out, cramping up. And [Bell] was out for awhile because of cramps. I think he went to the hospital the next day because he was severely dehydrated. That's how bad it was. But he came back in the fourth quarter and it was a fourth-and-long play, and they hit him in stride right down the seam. He basically dragged our outside linebacker and our corner -- I think our safety eventually tripped him up -- inside the 10-yard line within the last two minutes. We luckily stopped them on the last play to seal it. But the effort of that kid, really pulling for his team to win, coming off injured and dehydrated, he showed a lot of guts and courage."


Cedar Creek 21, Oakcrest 7
Opponent's final record: 11-3 (runner-up in South Jersey Group II)
Stat line: Defense -- 13 tackles (seven solo). Offense -- Four carries for 18 yards.

Cedar Creek coach Tim Watson

On what he saw on the film in preparing for Bell: "The most impressive thing with him you notice on film is he's a big kid who can move extremely well for his size, and he can keep up with the running backs. He can cover receivers. He's legit; you definitely had to gameplan around him. He has great range and makes plays all over the field."

What surprised him most playing against Bell: "We had a very fast running back, and [Bell] made some sideline plays where we felt we had him sort of beat to the corner -- he's a middle linebacker -- and he ends up making the plays for like a 2-yard gain, which would normally be like an 8-yard gain or our guy'd be up the sideline already. Our kid runs a 4.3, so he ends up scoring a ton of touchdowns on outside runs, and Brandon ended up cutting him off on the sideline. That was impressive because you don't often see linebackers running with those guys and with that type of speed."


Millville 40, Oakcrest 29
Opponent's record: 6-4
Stat line: Defense -- 12 tackles (four solo), 0.5 tackles for loss. Offense -- Six carries for 46 yards.

Millville coach Jason Durham

On preparing to play Bell: "He has tremendous sideline-to-sideline speed, so he's definitely a guy we accounted for and tried to scheme away from -- which was hard because he's in the middle. We tried to use some of his talent against him, where we'd try to get him to overpursue by doing cutbacks and things, but he's a smart football player and he doesn't miss many tackles. He was a handful. He's got basically everything you want in a middle linebacker. He's just a big, fast, aggressive linebacker that's got a great motor."

On the play he remembers most from Bell's career: "We did very well this year in the game, but I can give you a good example from the year before. We had a first-team all-state running back who was blazing fast, and we tossed a screen pass to him. Brandon ran him down from behind. We were like, 'Wow.' You really couldn't get away from that kid. His ability really showed there."


Holy Spirit 26, Oakcrest 14
Opponent's record: 8-4 (Non-Public Group 2 champions)
Stat line: Defense -- 18 tackles (13 solo), two tackles for loss, one sack. Offense -- Six carries for 29 yards; one catch for 9 yards.

Holy Spirit coach John Iannucci

On his overall impressions of Bell: "He ran as well as any linebacker I've seen -- and I've seen some pretty good ones. I was actually talking to Ron Vanderlinden about him, and I told him he runs like a sprinter from sideline to sideline. He's like a 240-pound sprinter. ... I remember a play we had where we had the counter and the pitch, and he was just waiting for the pitch. So I was like, 'There's the end of that play.' We had to start running straight at people because of him. He was like a one-man defense playing the option."


Oakcrest 35, Winslow Township 19
Opponent's record: 0-10
Stat line: Defense -- 21 tackles (12 solo), five tackles for loss, one interception, one safety. Offense -- Four carries for 19 yards.

Winslow Township coach Cal Thompson

On his surprise seeing Bell's performance: "When I saw the film on Oakcrest, he wasn't in it. So it was funny because that kid had one hell of a day. I remember him running through our line; we gave the ball to our halfback, and he just gave our kid a forearm shiver and sent our kid flying. I was like, 'Who was that kid?' I sure found out that day. ... He just went nuts. As a football coach, you appreciate that. I don't want to lose a football game, but you have admiration for your opponent. I bow down and give that kid a lot of respect. You just don't see a guy take over a high school game on the defensive side of the ball like that. He was all over the place; he was like a man possessed."