Any time a player is put on the watchlist for a high-profile award, the microscope moves over their little petri dish and the examination begins. FCS awards may not be as heavily examined as their FBS brothers, but they nonetheless carry scrutiny as well. With the meaty part of the non-conference schedule over and a tune-up before the Dukes welcome Wagner, the question must be asked – has Dorian Bell lived up to the nod yet?
There is no question that the presence of Bell means quite a lot. Opponents have to think twice with him on the other side of the ball. I will also admit that there’s no real way to measure how an offense’s reaction to his being there impacts the space or opportunity that his teammates get. All we can do is look at what’s happened on the field and see what we think.
Dorian Bell has yet to register a sack or a tackle for loss of any kind – though he has been close. He is a part of a three-way tie for third in tackles. When we have heard his name it has been for a few penalties.
This compares to last year, where in only eight games he racked up 6.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and 92 total tackles for first place on the team. Again, this is in spite of missing just under one fourth of the season. His numbers project to 9 sacks and 126 tackles over a full season – some impressive numbers.
Dorian definitely appears to be in a bit of a slump. Not only are the lack of sacks glaring, he is getting tackles at roughly 50% the rate of last year.
There are a few reasons for this. Teams are most certainly gameplanning for him. Last year, despite the hype, he was an unknown quantity coming off of the transfer as well as the suspension. His numbers speak for themselves and now teams know just how much of a threat he is. However, elite players must be able to overcome that sort of adversity.
The defense as a whole is also having difficulty with tackling. This is a unit problem and not just a Bell problem.
Finally, the entire front seven must get more pressure. Last year, ten players finished with at least a share of a sack. This year, only two players have numbers in the sack column to this point.
There is no question that Bell is talented, and certainly is more than capable. It was great to watch him put things back together last year after the whirlwind surrounding Ohio State. West Liberty may be the right medication to get him back into top form. The Dukes will certainly need a fully-charged Dorian Bell if they are going to contend for the NEC title this year.