Ronnie Bell’s knee injury suffered on Saturday in the Michigan Wolverines’ win over the Western Michigan Broncos is a season-ender. Head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed the news on Monday during his weekly press conference.
Bell, who was named a captain ahead of this season, will still have a presence in the football building and on the sidelines. Harbaugh said that is his role on the team now that he has suffered the unfortunate injury.
“From my own personal experience, having a season-ending injury, the best way not to be left out is to help out,” Harbaugh said. “Leading from the sideline, being a captain. Also, he can contribute intellectually — because he’s a smart guy. I remember Lloyd Carr pulling me into his office and asking me to chart secondary coverages for the defense and learn coverages and watch the tape. It was one of the best things that ever happened in my career. Ronnie definitely is driven, cares about the team and will continue to be a big part of it, I’m sure.”
Still, Bell is a senior leader and the eyeball test has shown him to be the best wide receiver in the building. It has to be a group effort, says Harbaugh.
“It’s gonna be very difficult to replace Ronnie Bell. Really tough,” he said. “Seasoned, experienced, tremendous blocker. Such a competitor, such a gamer, as some guys are. He just wants it really bad. The good players are the ones who want it the most and now somebody’s task to try to fill those shows. Maybe one guy, maybe take two, two types of players to fill those shoes.”
“The guys that were already getting the opportunity. Cornelius Johnson, already playing, starting. Mike Sainristil, Roman Wilson was immediately out there and he was already in the rotation. AJ Henning, Daylen Baldwin, Andrel Anthony, though he’s young, I see a bright future for him and Cristian Dixon. Those are the immediate guys. Most of them have gotten game experience and are ready to go.”
Harbaugh also said that Caden Kolesar remains next in line to return punts for Michigan, but that he is also a good rusher on special teams. Henning is a player that fits the bill of what he is looking for there and he seemed to insinuate they would like him to take the job.
“Ultimately AJ Henning, if he could get really comfortable back there catching the ball, that’s an ideal position for him, as well as receiver. Right now, Caden is the most sure-handed guy, next-best from Ronnie. The problem is if he returns the punts, he’s not rushing, blocking and holding up. So many other places he could play on the punt return. We’ll figure that out as we go.”