The Colorado Buffaloes annual spring scrimmage at Folsom Field is an opportunity for the entire team to showcase its talent. From the program’s fifth-year seniors to its early enrollees, each player gets some time on the field. For the coaching staff and fans alike, it’s an opportunity to observe not just the starters and first-team offense and defense, but some of the younger, lesser-known players whose job it will be to take over for those starters once they move on.
During Colorado’s most recent spring scrimmage, fewer players seized that opportunity more than sophomore wide receiver Maurice Bell.
Though the sophomore has only appeared in six games for the Buffs during his two-year tenure, Bell has never caught a ball in a college game. During the Spring Game, however, the 6-foot sophomore looked like a starting senior wideout. Bell finished with six catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.
Bell is big on opportunity. Let’s just say, if you were to make one of those word clouds of his interview — you know, the ones that categorize the most used words in bigger fonts with the lesser used words in smaller fonts — the word “opportunity” would be smack dab in the middle of the cloud in 100-point font.
“When opportunity meets preparation, you got to make the plays at the end of the day,” Bell said. “When I got the opportunity, I made the plays. No matter if it was last year’s offense or this year’s offense, I just got to make the plays when the ball comes to me.”
Bell certainly made plenty of plays throughout the day. None were more crowd-rousing than a 51-yard catch down the sideline, a one-play microcosm that displayed Bell’s breakaway speed and shifty moves off the line of scrimmage, something he’s becoming known for around the locker room with his teammates and coaches.
“No doubt, some really exciting guys,” first-year offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said. “I was really excited with Daniel Arias, who made a bunch of nice plays, looked like Maurice Bell [did too] … We have a really good nucleus of skilled kids, young kids that are doing a nice job.”
Despite not throwing to him once during the game due to being on separate teams, fifth-year senior quarterback Steven Montez still had something to say about Bell and his young receiving core that is stepping up for the Buffs.
“I feel like it’s just evolved and changed a lot,” Montez said. “Now it’s kind of shifting towards the newer [group of receivers] … you go out there today and you see Daniel Arias and Maurice Bell and they absolutely had themselves a day.”
The two aforementioned sophomore receivers both had a big day — the former led the field with seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, topping the latter by just nine yards. Either way, the performances by Arias and Bell were a sign of the times and a look into the future of Colorado’s offense.
There’s no doubt that Bell turned some heads with the coaching staff, and his stock seems to be on the rise. Though he hasn’t had any catches as he enters his third year with the Buffs, all indications point to Bell earning more reps entering the 2019 season. Bell knows, however, that there is plenty of competition on the team and he’ll need to seize his opportunities if he hopes to climb Colorado’s depth chart.
“Everyone looked pretty good, but we’re kind of just stacked,” Bell said. “Everywhere we got competition, we’re all talented. When you have your opportunity, when it presents itself, you just got to make the plays obviously. If somebody goes down, you got to step up. Days like this are important because you got to show that you can play and you’re actually able to make plays when you get your opportunity when your name’s called.”
There are currently 12 listed wide receivers on the Buffaloes’ roster. Figuring to carry the brunt of the load this season are junior receivers K.D. Nixon and Laviska Shenault Jr., who missed the Spring Game while in post-surgery recovery after emerging last season as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. After those two, however, it’s anyone’s guess who will be getting the majority of the snaps.
If Bell hopes to thrust himself among the top of the wide receiver’s depth chart, he’ll need to continue to work.
“Obviously, you just got to know that even if there’s guys in front of you and behind you, you just got to keep on working, because if you stop working and you just get down on yourself, you’re going to stay in the same spot,” Bell said. “So you just got to keep on working, keep on working; like I said earlier, when opportunity presents itself you just got to show out and make the plays.”
Following the end of the Colorado Buffaloes annual Spring Game at Folsom Field, there is an opportunity for students, young fans and Buffs faithful to get on the turf with the players for a meet-and-greet with their respective favorite Buffaloes. As one might expect, the Buffs’ big stars like Montez, Shenault Jr. and even Colorado basketball’s Evan Battey drew big scrums of young fans eagerly waiting for pictures and autographs.
But in the middle of the masses of people on Folsom’s turf, right around the 40-yard line, stood sophomore wide receiver Maurice Bell all alone.
See, Bell isn’t quite a big name around Folsom Field just yet — keyword: yet — but if the sophomore rising star continues to take advantage of his opportunities, it’s a good bet Bell will draw a bit of a bigger crowd come this time next year at the 2020 Spring Game.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Scott MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @0ffScottFree.