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August 12, 2013

Vonn Bell can't stop smiling

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With nine practices scheduled over the course of the next six days, even the most senior members of the Ohio State football team find themselves dreading just the thought of what has been deemed a "make or break" week by Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer.

This begs the question: why can't freshman Vonn Bell stop smiling?

Meeting with members of the Columbus media for the first time on Sunday, the Rossville, Ga. native wore an almost permanent grin, while touching on topics ranging from his recruiting experience to on-field battles with tight end Jeff Heuerman. Not even the prospects of the upcoming and expectedly grueling week could make Bell's smile disappear.

"Coach Meyer, they'll never take my smile off my face. I'm ready to go," Bell said. "If we got three-a-days, I'm always going to wake up smiling saying, 'What's up coach? Let's go.'"

Even with the week at hand, Bell has plenty of reasons to be smiling.

The former five-star prospect is currently engaged in a position battle with Tyvis Powell at the Buckeyes' nickelback spot, and is expected to provide depth to a safety unit led by seniors Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett. One way or another, it's hard to imagine a scenario where the Ridgeland High School product isn't a key contributor for the second-ranked Buckeyes this season, a thought that would make any true freshman happy just weeks before the official start of his college career.

But even if there is a purpose for Bell's perpetual grin, his roommate -- Ohio State freshman running back Dontre Wilson -- said that it's not as permanent as it appeared on Sunday.

"That's how he is. He's a real cool dude," Wilson said. "He stops smiling on the field though. When he's on the field, it's very personal. He's a great a player."

Back in February, it was Meyer and OSU safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers who couldn't stop smiling, after Bell chose to play for the Buckeyes over Tennessee and Alabama. Now that the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder is in Columbus, the Buckeyes staff remains just as optimistic about his future, although Withers admitted that Bell has not been immune to some freshman habits.

"About like a freshman," Withers said when asked how Bell has performed through the first week of fall camp. "Like most freshmen, they come in and have -- not necessarily good days and bad days -- but good periods and bad periods. That's usually what freshmen do. They're up and down like a roller coaster.

"But he's a competitor. I think he likes -- I know he does -- he loves football. He'll continue to get better. He's obviously got some talent. Now we gotta get that talent and technique to work together."

That type of challenge doesn't seem to bother Bell. In fact, it appears to be what attracted him to Ohio State in the first place. The freshman safety has embraced Withers' demanding coaching style, and is even using it as another reason to show off his trademark grin.

"He's a perfectionist and he loves perfection. That's what we want -- to do something big and show we have perfection and have everything on one page," Bell said. "He's always going to teach me. He's always going to put my chin in the dirt and I just gotta learn how to overcome it and use it in a positive way."

If Bell can do that, it would go a long way towards making good on the goal that he stated on National Signing Day of beating Alabama and ending the SEC's recent streak of national championships. And if he can help do that, he won't be the only one in Columbus smiling.

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