Alabama Football: The Return of Kenny Bell Could Win the Heisman for AJ McCarron

Bryan PowersCorrespondent IApril 4, 2013

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 20:  AJ McCarron #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after tossing a touchdown reception to Kenny Bell #7 against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on October 20, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When the Alabama Crimson Tide take the field again this fall, star quarterback AJ McCarron will be hoping to build on his already amazing career and end his days at Alabama with three consecutive BCS titles and a Heisman Trophy on his resume.

To do this, wideout Kenny Bell may be the man McCarron needs to stake his claim as the most successful college quarterback of all time.

McCarron led the nation in passing efficiency in 2012 and has now led his Tide to back-to-back national championships. In two years as Bama's passer, McCarron has tallied an amazing 46 touchdowns while only throwing eight interceptions.

Numbers like this, combined with a 25-2 record as a starter, automatically make him a preseason Heisman candidate.

Bell, a Louisiana native, did not exactly set the college football world on fire in his first two seasons.

After catching only two passes in his freshman year, Bell caught just 17 passes for 255 yards as a sophomore. He was a nice piece to have, but little more.

But as a Junior, Bell became the top deep threat for McCarron, catching another 17 passes.

The difference was that he picked up an average of over 25 yards per catch last season before breaking his leg in the Auburn game. Were it not for the injury, Bell could have led the nation in yards per catch.

As reported by Andrew Gribble of, Bell said of his injury "I'm not surprised. I'm a hard worker and a big competitor ... When I knew my leg was broken, I just feel like it was an opportunity to get back as fast as I could and try to help my teammates win a championship."

It is that kind of optimistic, team-first attitude that makes Kenny Bell the kind of winner that Alabama needs.

When spring practice began for Alabama a few weeks ago, Kenny Bell was back at practice and wearing the full-contact white jersey. He was once again at fully healthy.

This means more for McCarron and the Alabama offense than many people are talking about.

The Tide will have to replace three starters off the offensive line, but aside from that, everything looks great.

Alabama will once again be loaded at running back with T.J. Yeldon in the feature role. He will be spelled by (possibly) freshman Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake.

At receiver, Alabama returns it's 2012 freshman sensation Amari Cooper along with Bell and Kevin Norwood. Christion Jones, Chris Black, DeAndrew White and Marvin Shinn are back as well.

The difference with Bell is his deep-threat ability. The fact that Bell can light up pretty much any defense he will face is what will make it difficult for opposing defenses to double up on Cooper. Kevin Norwood will make it that much tougher as a third true option.

Without Bell, Alabama is missing that quick strike ability that can work opposite of Cooper. Norwood is very good but is far from the deep threat that Bell is.

McCarron, with the deepest crew of receivers he has ever had, should have his choice of open receivers this fall. The only question is how well he will be protected.

Kenny Bell is looking to prove himself as a legitimate star this season, and now that Cooper is the threat that he is, Bell could have a realistic shot at picking up close to 1,000 yards in 2013.

Knowing that the running game will be dependable if not sensational, the sky is the limit for McCarron and the receivers.

If AJ stays healthy there is no reason not to believe that he could throw for north of 3,500 yards this fall. And if he has another season like he did last year, he will be a shoe in to be invited to New York as a Heisman finalist.

When he gets there, you can rest assured that he will be thanking Kenny Bell for helping him do it.