Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
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They open the season by hosting a No. 12 Wisconsin team that is led by one the nation’s top offensive lines. The front unit returns all five starters and has been together for most of the last two seasons.
It’s sure to be a daunting task for Bell and the others on the defensive line.
The challenge, however, is nothing in comparison to the recovery process Bell has endured since injuring his shoulder last September. While spending six months rehabbing following surgery, he missed virtually all of last fall and wasn’t fully healed in time for spring practice.
There was plenty of doubt and frustration as he watched his teammates try to win a starting spot during the spring.
When he finally returned to full-contact drills during the training trip to Ely two weeks ago, Bell’s natural ability took over. No longer slowed by the shoulder, he was able to do what he does best — get into the offensive backfield.
The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Bell, who was granted a medical redshirt last year after only seeing action on special teams in two games, has combination of size and speed the Rebels will rely on. His speed off the edge in pass-rush could be a difference-maker.
“He’s a big body that can move,” said Kraig Paulson, UNLV’s defensive coordinator. “I really believe he hasn’t arrived.”
Bell, the younger brother of former Rebels Zach and Beau Bell, was a J.C. Gridwire First Team All-American in 2008 at Santa Ana College. He had 24.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks in being ranked as the nation’s No. 45 junior college prospect by recruiting website Rivals.com.
Bell feels he is close to returning to his dominating ways. He went from working with the second-string to Monday being named a starter.
“You really have to give credit to the coaches for pushing me to my full potential,” Bell said. “They are getting the best out of all of us.”
Paulson said the Wisconsin game would help answer questions about Bell and the other defensive linemen. The eight-man rotation — four defensive tackles and four defensive ends — includes two freshmen and lacks experience and depth. That's where Paulson believes Bell can be a tremendous asset.
“We have to try to make him into an every-down player,” Paulson said. “He’s done some good things for us so far, but Saturday will be a big test.”
Bell said his shoulder is almost back to normal. Like several of his teammates, he looks at opening against a nationally respected opponent as an opportunity.
In addition to proving his shoulder is healed, Bell wants return to the elite level that made him the star of the 2009 recruiting class.
Bell would also like to equal the accomplishments of his brothers at UNLV, but he knows matching older brother Beau Bell is easier said than done. Beau, who in 2008 was a fourth-round selection of the Cleveland Browns, was in 2007 the Mountain West Conference Defensive MVP.
The one thing Beau didn’t accomplish at UNLV was playing in a bowl — something B.J. feels is a realistic goal.
“I would love to get to a bowl game and have that experience,” B.J. Bell said. “That would be a pretty good reward for (all the rehab).”
• Defensive back indefinitely suspended
Red-shirt freshman defensive back Cedric Coleman was suspended indefinitely by coach Bobby Hauck for violating a team policy.
Coleman wasn’t expected to be a contributor this fall. A statement from the university announcing the suspension didn’t include reasons, and Hauck isn’t commenting further.
• Injury update
Five players have been ruled out for the Wisconsin game in an injury report Hauck released Tuesday. They are defensive back Courtney Bridget (shoulder), defensive lineman Matt Kravetz (leg), linebacker Beau Orth (back), running back Imari Thompson (foot) and offensive lineman Shane Watterson (leg).
Players who are listed as questionable include senior offensive lineman Matt Murphy (foot). Murphy was named a team captain Monday.
Another nine players, including three of four starters in the defensive secondary are listed as questionable with minor injuries. The most notable are safeties Will Chandler (leg) and Alex De Giacomo (shoulder), and senior cornerback Quinton Pointer (shoulder).