Kenny Bell might be one of the biggest free spirits in the Big Ten.
Whether it's his distinctive Afro hairstyle or his entertaining Twitter feed (@AFRO_THUNDER80), Bell isn't afraid to go his own way. And his way on the football field is pretty good, too, as Bell led Nebraska in receiving last year as a redshirt freshman with 32 catches for 461 yards and three touchdowns. I caught up with Bell before the Cornhuskers took off for spring break to get his thoughts on how spring practice is going, his undying love of the Colorado Buffaloes and, of course, that hair:
How has spring practice gone so far for you guys?
Kenny Bell: It's going well. Obviously, spring time is a new time for a lot of guys to step up. This year, luckily, we're going into the second year of a new offense, so things are running a lot smoother than last year. Guys are up to speed, and everybody's pretty anxious to get it going.
What areas are you looking to improve upon this offseason?
KB: You can always improve in every aspect of the game. The No. 1 thing I want to improve is consistency. And I think that as a wide receiving corps, we're looking to provide consistency this year. Eliminate the drops. Run precise routes, good depths. Speed and timing is a motto of ours this year. We're looking to really spread it out and get the wide receivers involved.
How much different is it this spring going into the second year of Tim Beck's offense?
KB: It's night and day, the difference compared to last year with a whole year under your belt and watching the film. You don't have to worry about learning 150 signals, like we did at this time last year, so it's going a lot smoother.
You mentioned the drops and inconsistency last year by the receivers. Did that get frustrating at times?
KB: Yeah. Anytime you miss out on some big plays or leave yards out on the field, it's a nuisance, and guys get frustrated. But we've lived and we've learned, and guys are going to get a lot better. Taylor [Martinez] is doing a great job working on his footwork and throwing motion, so I'm really looking forward to the year he's going to have as well.
If the passing game can improve, to go along with your strong running game, how good can this offense be?
KB: You know, there are a lot of what-ifs. We're going to take it one game at a time. But there's no doubt in my mind we can be a very potent offense, definitely one of the best in the Big Ten if not in the country.
Did you expect to make as big of an impact as you did in your first year of playing?
KB: Absolutely not. The year started real slow for me. The Chattanooga game, I didn't play very much. I probably only got in for about 10 plays. Then I got my opportunity with the first start against Washington and reeled in a big one, and then the next week I got my first touchdown at Wyoming. It kind of just started rolling downhill from there. Next thing I know, I was getting 10-to-15 balls thrown my way in the Capital One Bowl. But I'm not the only talented receiver, by far. We've got guys returning everywhere at the wide receiver position who are tremendous. I wouldn't say we have a single wide receiver who's a lot better than anybody else in the room. I think we've got great competition and it's going to be a solid year for us.
So do you not look at yourself as the No. 1 guy?
KB: Absolutely not. I would never look at myself as No. 1 or the leader. I think we've got a group of guys that have come together that all have one mind-set and one goal, and that's to win football games. We're not looking to see what guy can shine more. We just want to come together, we want to work and we want to win.
We also saw you carry the ball a few times and return kicks last season. Is that still on the agenda for you?
KB: Yeah. It's still early in spring, so I can't tell you exactly what's going on. But any way I can contribute, I plan on doing so.
Your father, Ken, played for the Denver Broncos from 1986 to 1989. Obviously, that was before you were born, but how much have you seen tape of his games and talked about those days with him?
KB: I've watched the films and picked his brain many a time. Football in something in my family that's talked about year-round. It's like Nebraska, where football is year-round. In my house, the sport never leaves.
So did you grow up a Broncos fan?
KB: I am a pretty solid Broncos fan, but I love the Buffs. Being from Boulder, I'm an avid Buffs fan.
I saw your tweet on Thursday rooting on Colorado in the NCAA tournament.
KB: Yeah, I got the Rams [Colorado State] and the Buffs dancing this year. I never thought I'd see that in my life. For Colorado sports, that's huge.
Do people in Nebraska give you a hard time for cheering for Colorado?
KB: You know, I've never gotten teased about leaving Colorado to come to Nebraska to play, but the amount of people who tease me about loving the Buffs is unbelievable.
What kinds of things do they say?
KB: I don't understand why people care so much. (Laughs). I don't care who your favorite team is. If you love your hometown and you love the team from your hometown, I'm not going to have any problem with that.
Did you come close to going to Colorado?
KB: No. At the time, it just wasn't the right place. I've never regretted my decision to come to Nebraska. I love it here, I love the fans, I love the atmosphere, I love the coaches and everything about it. But I do love my hometown and that university. Just because I didn't go there doesn't take away that passion.
People from Boulder are known as free spirits. How much did that atmosphere have an effect on you growing up?
KB: People ask me that all the time, and I couldn't tell you. That's just the culture there. Some people have told me that I am like that, but I couldn't tell you. If I am like that, it's just part of me and I wouldn't really notice.
Can we get an update on your hair?
KB: It's definitely as crazy and goofy as ever, so you don't have to worry about that. The Afro will definitely be with me for the four years I'm here.
When is the last time you had it cut?
KB: I get it trimmed pretty often, but the last time I shaved my head? Oh, man. It's been over two years, definitely.
What prompted your decision to go with that look?
KB: I was tired of my mom telling me I had to shave my head. I was tired of haircuts, man. I got to the point where I just didn't want to get a haircut and I thought, "Well, this Afro doesn't look too bad. Maybe I'll go with this."
Ever have trouble fitting it in your helmet?
KB: Nah, never that. We've got some of the best equipment staff in the nation.
You're active on Twitter. Do your coaches ever have to tell you to calm down with that stuff?
KB: Obviously, sometimes you've got to be careful with the social media nowadays with what you're saying, because stuff gets out there and people can read it and misinterpret what you're saying. We have the conversation all the time about what should be said, what can be said. But as far as what I say, the last time I got in trouble for a tweet was when I said the [2005 USC] Trojans would beat the  Huskers. People take opinions pretty seriously.
Got anything interesting planned for spring break next week?
KB: Aw, man. Rest. A seven-day break for a collegiate football player, that's once every year. So I'm going to get my rest in for sure.