TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Wilson Bell walked to the line of scrimmage during Saturday’s game at North Carolina State, looked to his left and saw a familiar face.
“Good to be back, brother,” center Alec Eberle told him.
Bell and Eberle lined up next to each other often a year ago, when Bell started 13 games at right guard and Eberle started 10 games at center.
But an injury to Bell during FSU’s season opener against Ole Miss led to freshman Landon Dickerson filling in at Bell’s spot against Charleston Southern the next week. And once Dickerson took hold of the job, he didn’t let go. He started each of the next six games.
Losing a starting spot isn’t easy for any player, especially a redshirt junior giving way to a true freshman. But Bell maintained a positive attitude, kept working in practice and held faith that, one day down the road, the team would need him again.
That day came last Tuesday, when Dickerson tore the ACL in his right knee in practice.
In an instant, Bell became a starter again.
“I was the next guy up,” Bell said. “So I went and did my job and helped my team get the victory.”
Indeed, although Florida State’s running game stayed in first gear for much of Saturday’s game at NC State, the Seminoles enjoyed one of their best outings in pass protection of the season.
The line allowed just one sack – its lowest sack total in a game this season – and surrendered only two official hurries.
That improved protection paid off for quarterback Deondre Francois and the passing game, which struck for 330 yards and a touchdown in a 24-20 victory.
“It was good to get (Bell) back in there, and he did a nice job,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He played a very solid football game.”
Added Eberle, “He honestly had one of the best performances he’s had as an offensive lineman here at Florida State.”
While he of course preferred to be playing, Bell’s stint with the second-team offense allowed time to refine some techniques, which he feels made him a better player.
Tops on his priority list: playing in a lower stance, coming off the line with more power and improving his footwork.
Bell also embraced the opportunity to mentor Dickerson, a talented newcomer, but a player still learning the demands of major college football.
“He’s a great kid, he’s a strong kid, very intelligent,” Bell said. “I kind of utilized my tools to help him out and show the coaches that I’m very knowledgeable and I can help my team. And I’m just as proud (of that). …
“[Dickerson] is younger than me so I’m teaching the guy the ropes.”
But on Saturday night in Raleigh, Bell was back at center stage.
And, now slated to be FSU’s starter for the rest of the season, Bell says he can appreciate how he spent the last two months.
“It wasn’t necessarily tough,” he said. “Of course you want to be out there helping your guys, but if it’s a guy out there doing the job right, doing everything right, helping the team win, of course you can be like, ‘My team is winning and that’s the overall goal.’ It’s never a jealousy factor. “It’s just, ‘Wilson, always be ready, you never know what can happen.’”