The brace on Jered Bell's left knee was supposed to make him feel more secure every time he took the field for the Colorado Buffaloes.

Instead, Bell realized that the brace was hurting him more than it was helping.

"The brace is a mindset," said Bell, a junior safety at CU. "You feel like with the brace you're limited. I didn't like that, so I felt like I can't be the player I want to be with a brace. I threw it away, took it off and said, 'I'm going to go for it; all or nothing.'"

Playing loose and free, Bell is finally making an impact at CU. Through two games, he has 11 tackles and his 79-yard interception return for touchdown on Saturday helped the Buffs to a 38-24 win against Central Arkansas.

"It feels good to come through for my team in a time of need," he said of his interception, which tied the game at 24-24 with 10:43 to play on Saturday.

Bell came to CU in 2010 as a cornerback and was one of just seven true freshmen to play that season. The next season, in 2011, he had his eyes on one of CU's top three cornerback spots, but just three days into camp, he tore the ACL in his left knee.

After his 2011 season was lost, Bell played in all 12 games last year, but was never right, he said.

"I wasn't healed," he said. "The coaches have to play the best players and they can't go out there with somebody who is not 100 percent. I understand that. I couldn't really cut. I wasn't feeling good."

He did have his first career interception, helping CU to its only win of the season at Washington State, but played in just 201 plays. Throughout the season, he played with that brace on his left knee.

This past spring, Bell, with the brace still a part of his uniform, tried out for cornerback in front of new CU head coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff.

"Second day they moved me right to safety," said Bell, who was admittedly disappointed initially because he wanted to play corner. "They felt like this would be a good fit. They've been around football for a long time, so they know what they're talking about and I trust them.

"It's working out now, so I can't complain."

Shortly after his position switch, Bell decided to ditch the brace. He's been a different player ever since.

"About halfway through spring practice, really when we came back from spring break, it seemed like he clicked," MacIntyre said. "About the same time (quarterback Connor Wood) did. I think maybe both of them didn't have the year they wanted (in 2012) and they came back and said, 'Hey, I've got a new chance. I can get it done.'

"He took his knee brace off and ... started flying around and making plays and I said, 'This kid is good!' I just think he's kind of got new life, so to speak, and he's a good player."

Bell finished the spring as the starter at free safety. He has remained in that spot since.

"I'm embracing it," said Bell, who has been on the field for 147 of CU's 148 defensive snaps. "It's a better fit now, especially after surgery. After surgery, I'm probably not the same player -- to play corner, at least."

At first, Bell had to get used to the new responsibility of being a safety. He has to be more of a leader and make calls on defense as a safety. It didn't take long for him to realize he could benefit from the switch.

"You get to see the field a lot more and I feel like I can make a lot more plays this way," he said.

So far, he has.

Bell is no longer wearing a brace, he's no longer a part-time player and he's no longer wishing he could play cornerback.

"I'm a safety now," he said with a smile.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.