Death of Bell stuns Mississippi St.


COLUMBIA -- A month ago Nick Bell was fine.

Heck, he was better than fine. Bell was a 20-year-old college athlete, a starting defensive end for Mississippi State's on-the-rise football team.

Today, he's gone. It can happen that fast. How harrowing for all of us, and particularly Bell's still-stunned family. Cancer took Bell's life before he really even knew what hit him.

Coach Dan Mullen and many of his Bulldogs teammates got a chance to say goodbye to Bell, in a Birmingham, Ala., hospital.

You can bet that Mullen and the Bulldogs, winners of six in a row, will play for Bell the remainder of this season, beginning next week in Bell's home state of Alabama.

A team with great purpose just gained even more.

You know, a lot of things about football seem trivial when you think about what Bell and his family encountered in the past month.

If you take away anything from Bell's story, it's this: Take nothing for granted. We're so richly blessed; every one of us.

Bell was playing big-time college football one month, in the ground the next. It can be gone that quickly. Life is that precious.

The school's athletic department plans to set up a fund in Bell's honor, with donations going to Bell's family. Details will be available online at Donations may be made by calling (662) 325-3074.

Thumbs up

--Florida's offensive coaches have previously been crushed in this space, so give them credit for dialing up a game plan to beat Georgia. A lot of teams are employing two quarterbacks these days. But three?

Jordan Reed, in addition to the dynamic ability of Trey Burton, is giving the Gators a little charge. Let's see if it's enough to get Florida back to the SEC title game.

--Don't look now, but Tennessee actually had some things going well for it in the second half last week.

Freshman quarterback Tyler Bray looked good enough -- after the interception, that is -- to earn the start this week at Memphis. And receiver Denarius Moore (228 yards, most of any FBS player this season) appeared to have NFL-level talent. Now, how much of that was South Carolina's sorry pass defense?

Thumbs down

--One of the season's great mysteries is: Why is the Gamecocks' secondary so bad? It's struggled in man coverage and struggled in zone coverage. Now it's without senior corner Chris Culliver, who tore a pectoral muscle last week.

If the Gamecocks would like to finally play in Atlanta, something's got to change in the next week or two. Too bad South Carolina welcomes the nation's second-best passing offense, Arkansas, to town this week.

--We'll briefly address it here to say: We recognize that football is a game propelled by emotion, but … really, Todd Grantham? He's a kid. You're an adult. Act accordingly, please.

A coach should never lose control to the point that he threatens a player, even symbolically, the way Georgia's defensive coordinator did Florida kicker Chas Henry on Saturday.

Kind of satisfying that Henry made the game- winning kick, isn't it?

Les said it

"I think the pieces that we have done here really that have benefitted us is we have looked at those things that we have been successful, and we are going to work to maximize those yet again." -- LSU coach Les Miles, on nothing in particular.

Trav's take

--Like South Carolina, LSU played Auburn close, lost and then had the following week off to prepare for Alabama. Don't expect that trick to work again, though. About time Mark Ingram breaks out, isn't it?

--In fact, many pundits are looking for the Tide to make it to the SEC title game. Wouldn't it be something if Alabama and Florida wound up playing in Atlanta, after all that stir?

--What if Florida did lose to Vanderbilt this week?

--Tennessee and Vanderbilt, four wins between them, are still eligible for the state championship.

--Cam Newton catches TD passes now? Yikes. What's next? Kicking extra points? Playing safety? Heck, he's bigger than Chattanooga's (this week's opponent) defensive linemen.