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Michigan State

MSU’s Bell Makes Immediate Impact As Featured Back

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Le'Veon Bell of the Michigan State Spartans. File.   (Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)

Le’Veon Bell of the Michigan State Spartans. File. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)

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NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — After perhaps the most impressive offensive performance in the country during college football’s opening week, Le’Veon Bell needed about a day to recover.

“I was sore, just like any other game I would be sore,” Bell said Tuesday. “My legs were a little tired but once I got that run in the next day my legs loosened up and I really got my body back. I felt great in practice today.”

Bell was a part-time running back his first two seasons at Michigan State, but he looks ready for a much bigger role in 2012. With the Spartans struggling through a 17-13 win over Boise State on Friday night, Bell ran for 210 yards on 44 carries and also added six receptions.

At times, he seemed like Michigan State’s entire offense.

“I think he’s the same player he’s been. He worked hard,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “He’s always prepared well and played hard, going back to his freshman year. He’s done this for a couple of years, and he’s going into his third year. The opportunity presented itself more maybe Friday night and he took advantage of it.”

Bell was competing with Edwin Baker the last two seasons. As a freshman, he rushed for 605 yards. Last season, it was 948 yards and 13 touchdowns.

When Baker decided to leave and pursue the NFL, Bell suddenly figured to become the focal point of the running game.

Before Friday, his career high was 20 carries. Offensive coordinator Dan Roushar told him to be ready, and Bell was expecting about 20 to 25 touches. He ended up more than doubling that and scoring both Michigan State touchdowns.

There was even a big block he threw in pass protection on Michigan State’s winning drive.

Now there’s even some — very early — talk of him being a Heisman Trophy candidate.

“When I was younger you see the Heisman guys on TV and you’re like, ‘Man, I want to win that trophy,'” he said. “Now you get the hype and everything about it, you’ve really just got to put all that aside and really do what you’ve got to do for the team to win. At the end of the day, if you’re not winning you’re not going to get the trophy anyways.”

The 11th-ranked Spartans play at Central Michigan this weekend, and Dantonio sounds determined to keep Bell focused on what’s important.

“I think what we have to make sure we’re not doing is, don’t drink the Kool-Aid around here,” Dantonio said. “He’s always come out and played hard. He’s always come out and practiced hard. He’s always tried to be a complete football player, so I don’t think that’s going to change whether he’s blocking or catching the ball or running with the football.

“I think he would play on special teams if we asked him to, and I think that’s the trademark of a good player, so his attitude is in the right place right now.”

NOTES: Dantonio was asked if he planned to address his players over trash-talking tweets about rival Michigan’s 41-14 loss to Alabama on Saturday night. “I think it’s disrespectful. I don’t think that’s something that we should be doing, so I’ll deal with that on my end,” Dantonio said. “I didn’t see much different when we played the University of Alabama a couple years ago. It’s tough. Our guys need to keep their mouths shut.” Michigan State lost to Alabama 49-7 in the 2011 Capital One Bowl. “You can’t be prideful. You need to approach this game with humility,” Dantonio said. “When it becomes personal, that crosses the line.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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