There is a funny line in the Purdue football media guide about wide receiver David Bell, who Notre Dame will have to try and find a way to handle on Saturday. It says, after listing a laundry list of accolades about the junior’s football career in high school, that he “also played basketball.”
It’s funny because for anyone familiar with the history of Bell, who graduated from Warren Central in Indianapolis, it’s impossible to overstate how great, not good, of an athlete that Bell is and how he could’ve probably played college basketball had he wanted to focus on it.
He was the leading scorer on the Warren Central basketball team that went 32-0 and won the Class 4A state title in 2018. That’s Indiana’s largest class in basketball.
Bell followed that basketball state title by helping the Warriors win the Class 6A state football title, Indiana’s largest class, leading Warren Central to a perfect 14-0 record.
Finishing 46-0 in Indiana's two major sports was an unprecedented accomplishment for the Warriors and Bell was at the center of it.
He was named the 2018 Indiana Gatorade Football Player of the Year after catching 85 passes for 1,542 yards and 22 touchdowns. There was a lot of squawking in Indianapolis when Notre Dame’s Jack Kiser, not Bell, was named Mr. Football in 2018.
The people in Bell’s corner had a point. It’s impossible to overstate how much Bell impacted that football team.
Notre Dame offered but he signed with Purdue in 2019, along with George Karlaftis, a 5-star defensive end.
Bell will be Notre Dame’s problem on Saturday when the teams meet in Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is aware of the challenge Bell poses. Bell, who is 6-1, has caught 14 passes for 255 yards with three touchdowns in just two games.
The Irish will have special plans to try to defend Bell.
“From an offensive standpoint, I think everybody focuses on David Bell and he is an outstanding player, “ Kelly said. “He’s a game breaker and again, another guy that you have to have a plan for. He's going to beat you one on one. So, we'll have to do some things relative to bracket coverage or things that they do against Mike Mayer. You have to know where he is at all times.”
Bell isn’t the only go-to pass catcher for the Boilermakers.
Payne Durham, a 6-5, 255-pound tight end, has caught 11 passes for 174 yards.
Kelly said that Purdue quarterback Jake Plummer has some talented options.
“He's got really good receivers and it's not just Bell. He’s got two good tight ends,“ Kelly said. “It’s a really good offense. We're going to have to do some things in coverage. We can't just line up and play man the whole day. We have to do some other things to disrupt them and we've got to get a pass rush.”
Bell said after the Boilermakers beat Connecticut 49-0 that he’s trying to work on gaining yards after the catch. He also carried the ball once for a 19-yard gain.
“I just want to prove that I’m more than a possession receiver,” he said. “I want to show more of my abilities this season.”
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