“I thought it would be the smartest move and the best decision for me,” SDSU running back Chance Bell said on the upcoming episode of The SDSU Football Podcast when asked why he decided to return for a super senior season. “I wanted the best shot to playing professional football (after college).”
Bell, the sixth-year senior from John Burroughs High School in Burbank, CA, played behind star running backs Juwan Washington and Greg Bell for the past four years. In his fifth year, the coast is clear for him to have the spotlight as the starting running back for SDSU.
Through four seasons of play (redshirted his first year), Bell accumulated 1,187 rushing yards on 257 carries (4.6 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns in a reduced role. With the departure of Greg Bell to the NFL and Kaegun Williams via transfer, Chance Bell and Jordan Byrd are the remaining upperclassmen in the running back room ready to lead the unit and “continue the tradition” of running back success.
Bell relishes the opportunity to be a leader, not just within the running back room but for the entire team. “I’ve prided myself by leading by example and working really hard,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are competing against each other but (you are) also competing against yourself because you want to be the best version of yourself.”
Bell is excited to see what his role will be in the revamped offense led by coach Jeff Hecklinski and has seen great improvement during the first two phases of the offseason. “Everything is just flowing naturally, a lot more organically, and that is showing in the production levels of what we are doing in the offense (so far),” Bell said.
Bell and Byrd are listed as the dual starters for the main running back position (RB-T), while Byrd is also listed as a starter for the secondary running back position (RB-F). Both super seniors are expected to carry a larger load than they have previously. Bell is gearing up by getting his mind and body ready.
“One big thing I have been improving on recently is picking up weight,” Bell said when asked what is the main thing he is working on in the offseason. “At the end of spring ball, I was a whopping 179, which isn’t very heavy. They have me listed at 185 on the website. That was something that I took very personal with where I want to head and where I want to go in my career.”
Bell now sits at 192 pounds and envisions playing in the 195-200 pound range for the fall season. “Putting on this weight is going to help me not have a playing style that is detrimental to my body…I’m a physical runner…running into guys that are 220, 230 pounds.”
Bell notes he joined teammates Jesse Matthews and Tyrell Shavers at Alex Johnson’s training facility, primarily working on explosive leg power and plyometrics to improve his physicality and confidence.
Another area for improvement for the entire running back unit is catching passes out of the backfield and route-running from the slot. Through four years, Bell has only 18 receptions for 141 yards and zero touchdowns, including only one catch for four yards in 2021. Bell made it a point to take additional reps with the receivers during Spring Camp and is focusing on that aspect as he trains with the two best wide receivers on the team.
If his dream of playing professional football does not come to fruition beyond his super senior season, Bell will instead make his mark on the betterment of society in a different profession: counseling. The grad student will be soon finishing a counseling program with a focus on trauma and mental health care, looking to help others in the same manner others helped him when he persevered through several traumatic events in his childhood.
“For me, mental health has always been something that I have held really high on my list of priorities,” he said when asked why he chose that particular graduate program. “Especially as an athlete, I feel like it’s really important for us to know our resources and know the things we can do to make sure we are in a healthy state of mind. A lot of physical reactions can happen if you don’t have the right state of mind.”
Here is a look at the other three running backs at or near the top of the post-spring depth chart.
Jordan Byrd, Senior
Career: 173 carries for 963 yards (nine touchdowns), 37 receptions for 159 yards (zero touchdowns)
Listed as the dual starter alongside Bell, Byrd is expected to share the stage with Bell as the lead running back. But given Byrd’s lack of size (only 170 pounds) and his utilization as the primary kick and punt returner on special teams, Byrd will likely not reach a 15 to 20 carries per game load that a typical starting running back would expect.
Byrd should play a larger role in the offense given his speed on screens, jet sweeps, shovel passes, and deep routes on safeties and linebackers after motioning out wide from the backfield.
Jaylon Armstead, Sophomore
Career: 25 carries for 80 yards (zero touchdowns)
As the only running back on the spring roster over 205 pounds, the 235-pound Armstead is poised for an elevated role. Armstead, who shined in last year’s Spring Camp as a freshman, did not see much of the field in 2021 outside of mop-up duties in a few blowouts due to the four seniors ahead of him. Armstead rushed for 24 yards on three carries in the 2022 Spring Game.
Chance Bell on Armstead: “He’s a downhill runner, but he can make you miss in the open field. Not a slow guy, even though he’s a bigger running back. He definitely has a lot of tools in his arsenal, and it’s just about keeping his head in the playbook, improving and keeping that consistency.”
Cam Davis, Redshirt Freshman
Davis shares the starter spot on the post-spring depth chart with Byrd for RB-F, a good sign that the coaching staff trusts
him especially running routes out of the backfield and utilized in the same way Byrd has been the past several years. Davis only rushed for eight yards on three carries during the 2022 Spring Game, but the explosive back should break some big plays in the run and pass game when given the opportunity in his Aztec career.
Chance Bell on Davis: “Speedster, obviously a track guy. He made a lot of great plays throughout spring coming out of the backfield and through the slot.”
Starting in the summer, the Aztecs will add two true freshmen to the mix in local products, Lucky Sutton (Cathedral Catholics High) and Sheldon Canley Jr. (Lompoc High). The six running backs should provide a solid blend of experience, youth, speed, power, and explosiveness to the 2022 Aztecs’ offense.