WCIA — Wisconsin’s Christian Bell was looking for a fresh start. Turns out he didn’t have to look very far. The grad transfer decided to stay in the Big Ten West, picking Illinois to play his final year of college eligibility this fall.
“I feel like Illinois is the place where they will let me showcase my talents,” Bell said during a recent FaceTime interview. “The reason why I left Wisconsin is because there wasn’t enough opportunity there.”
Bell played in 24 games over three years with the Badgers, but missed time last year with an injury. He did not play against Illinois. The 6-foot-4, 245 pound defensive end is expected to help replace Oluwole Betiku Jr., who left early for the NFL Draft and ended up signing a free agent contract with the New York Giants. Bell originally signed with Alabama out of high school but transferred to Wisconsin after a grayshirt season. The Hoover, Alabama native had just eight tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss in 24 games in Madison.
“The biggest thing for me, for my last year, was to go somewhere where I feel like they can trust me, and I can trust them,” Bell said about his fit in Champaign.
When Bell committed in March, he was the first transfer for Illinois. Now head coach Lovie Smith has five grad transfers, to go along with two sit out guys. Bell joins Wofford offensive lineman Blake Jeresaty, New Mexico State receiver Desmond Dan, TreSean Smith and Cal defensive lineman Chinedu Udeogu as immediately eligible players. Miami receiver Brian Hightower and Mississippi State offensive lineman Brevyn Jones will sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.