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March 26, 2012

Notebook: Bell tolls for playing time

TUSCALOOSA | Kenny Bell has watched and waited.

The University of Alabama wide receiver watched a future first-round NFL pick in Julio Jones sharpen his craft at UA, and played a bit more last year while Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks handled most of the receiver duty.

In 2012, the Louisiana native wants more -- but he's not alone. The spring practice environment is a competitive one, particularly at Bell's position.

Kenny Bell at Monday's press conference

"It's very high. Everybody is competing to get that spot," Bell said. "Everybody is going out there, pushing each other, making each other work hard. If we see one slack, we pick each other up."

Bell caught 17 passes for 255 yards last season; fifth on the team but third among receivers. UA coach Nick Saban said Bell has been impressive through six practices.

"Kenny Bell is having a really good spring, making lots of plays. Kevin Norwood has done pretty good job. DeAndrew White had done a good job until he pulled his hamstring. I think Amari Cooper and Chris Black have shown good ability," Saban said.

Asked which wide receiver is the team's most dangerous when it comes to pure speed, Bell was one of two mentioned by veteran cornerback Dee Milliner.

"Probably Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White," Milliner said. "Both guys can flat-out run. Once they get going, it's hard to stay with them."

Bell said he has worked to add size since the Crimson Tide's season ended Jan. 9, adding 10 pounds to his frame, and is now approaching 200 pounds. Sophomore-to-be Christion Jones is also a key figure in the competition at receiver.

"The receiving corps, since we're so young, not everybody has good experience," Bell said. "But we've been out there working every day, taking it day by day, and learning everything. We'll be ready this year."

Sluggish practice Although Saban said he has been pleased with the team's overall improvement since spring drills began March 9, he wasn't as impressed with the Crimson Tide's effort Monday.

"I didn't feel like today was one of our better days in terms of the number of guys who actually had the amount of energy, intensity, sense of urgency," Saban said. "Some guys had the 'Poor Me's' today. I think you get that at some point in the spring. I think it's something that good teams have to persevere and get through. I told the players after practice I'd call Michigan to ask them if they were going to take days off when they get tired, or if they are going to try to work through it."

UA opens the 2012 season against Michigan in a nationally-televised neutral-site game in Dallas.

Quotable "He knows the blitzes now when he sees them and calls them out. He knows everything back there." - cornerback Dee Milliner on the spring improvement of quarterback AJ McCarron.

Tidebits Running backs Blake Sims and Eddie Lacy continue to be withheld from contact for injury reasons, as does offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio. ... Wide receiver DeAndrew White has been limited in practice with a hamstring problem. ... Monday practice visitors included former UA linemen Alfred McCullough and Josh Chapman. ... The Crimson Tide will resume practice Wednesday afternoon.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.



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