Column: How much should Reggie Bell play vs. Toledo

Eastern Michigan University quarterback Reggie Bell has been cleared to play following a broken jaw suffered against Old Dominion University in week one. The question now is, how much should Bell play against the University of Toledo on Saturday, or if he should even play at all. 

The Eagles are looking for a much-needed win at the University of Toledo on Saturday, having lost four in a row and falling to 1-5 on the season. Bell's return can potentially be an extra boost to what has been a rather efficient offense this season.

EMU is averaging 29.6 points per game while ranking 48th out 128 F.B.S. schools in passing offense with 1,407 yards gained this season. EMU also ranks 62nd in total rushing yards with 1,003.

Bell, when running the ball, has gained 620 yards on 144 attempts in nine starts and two other appearances in his career, good for a 4.3 yard per carry average. When passing the ball, Bell has completed 58 percent of his 202 career attempts for 1,418 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Bell completed 12-of-18 passes for 121 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while leading the Eagles to 31 points through three quarters in the only game he has appeared in for Eastern this season.

But despite the boost he can give the offense, EMU should be careful with how many times Bell touches the ball this Saturday.

Bell has been sidelined for five weeks with the broken jaw. That is five weeks since the last time he has been hit by a defender and five weeks since he faced an opposing defense. And being out with injury, there has been little practice time for Bell over the past month.

“He’s been able to practice, but without a helmet,” said EMU coach Chris Creighton. “There’s some things he hasn’t been able to do. So he’s not going to be going from completely dormant to practicing full-go all of a sudden.”

With that said, expectations should be for Bell to see little time, but not much against a strong Toledo defense.

The Rockets are ranked 25th in the nation in total defense, and fifth in rushing defense, only giving up 445 total rushing yards this season. Toledo is also giving up only 11.8 points per game, making Saturday a rather rough game for Bell to step back onto the field after sitting out for five weeks.

To get him acclimated to live game situations, it would be best for Bell to be out on the field when the team needs a third down conversion or a big play to set up a score. Rather than jump right back into the starting role and taking a majority of the snaps.

“He’s been able to – it’s been a jaw injury, so his legs are healthy and he’s been able to throw, he just hasn’t been able to wear a helmet or be in contact,” Creighton said. “This week in practice we will see how well he’s done with keeping up on how well we’re doing.”

So, it will be a wait-and-see situation when it comes to Bell's playing time when it comes to Saturday against Toledo. But it is in the best interests of both the team and Bell to slowly get Bell some snaps before taking the starting role again next week from back-up Brogan Roback.

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