Third in a series …
Hugh Freeze picked up what many call the No. 1 junior college quarterback in the country in Chad Kelly but picked up Kelly’s baggage too.
Freeze spoke about the Kelly decision on signing day. The text that follows is a repeat, but I’m posting it again here because it is stunning in its candor.
“He has made some poor decisions that have cost him some opportunities. Almost cost him this one. He understands exactly what we have to do moving forward. He’s got some strong reigns on him hopefully. I was asked today on one of the radio shows, ‘Tell us your thought process on that.’ My thought process is really simple. The media, social media in particular, try to make it difficult, but my thought process in situations like this is usually pretty simple. I balance on the scales an opportunity for a young man to re-write his story with the possibility of me having embarrassment. That’s really how I see it. If me getting embarrassed is the worst thing that happens to me in life, I’ll be OK. I’ve been embarrassed before and I’m sure I will be again. I do think he has some redeeming qualities that hopefully we can help put some structure around him that will enable him to rewrite his story in a positive way. I hope and pray like heck that he doesn’t embarrass our team, our university and myself, but that is a possibility. That is something I recognize and will have to own. I’ve gotten great support. I ran everything by our administration. I know they trust my judgment. I trust the coaches that I put around him, and hopefully we can help him succeed.”
Clearly Freeze is prepared for the possibility that this decision will backfire.
The fact that he felt he had to go down this road is the clearest read he’s given on the development of last year’s redshirt freshmen, Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, with whom Kelly will compete for the job.
Kelly needs to win the job. If he doesn’t the potential for a distracted New York kid with a history of poor decisions finding off-field trouble in Oxford multiplies.
Kelly isn’t the only quarterback in the signing class. There’s another, and Jason Pellerin has exciting potential. More about him in a moment.
If the Kelly decision doesn’t backfire the former Clemson four-star signee could bring a great mix of pocket presence and accuracy with more mobility than Bo Wallace brought to the position.
Ole Miss lists Kelly at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds. I’ve heard folks say he’s much shorter than that. I haven’t seen him.
He was run off from Clemson for what Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said were behavior issues. He celebrated his December Ole Miss scholarship signing with an arrest in downtown Buffalo days later.
He also passed for 47 touchdowns with 66.9 percent accuracy and only eight interceptions – eight Ole Miss fans – at East Mississippi Community College last year.
Those are juco numbers and should be processed in the proper manner, of course, but eight interceptions is the key.
With the returning talent on this team it’s not hard to understand the national buzz for Ole Miss right now in spite of a transition at quarterback. If Kelly makes the right reads in the pocket and the right decisions off the field this could work.
Pellerin committed to Ole Miss in the summer and never wavered. He played at Catholic High School in New Iberia, La., and stands 6-4 with the ability to get to the corner and make plays with his feet.
When you’re that tall, getting outside the pocket and keeping your eyes downfield, good things can happen.
He has let it be known that he wants to redshirt, acclimate to his new surroundings and learn.
There’s a lot of potential with this guy, and the Rebels are also in good position with Shreveport, La.’s, Shea Patterson, rated by Rivals as five stars and the No. 1 dual threat quarterback in the country in the Class of 2016.
It’s unfortunate that entering his fourth season as head coach Freeze felt the need for a juco quarterback.
If the Kelly Experiment doesn’t explode and the Rebels win games, nobody will be talking about that disappointment this time next year.
There looks to be a good chance to sign and develop high school quarterbacks in the seasons to come, particularly if the Rebels can close on Patterson. That’s a significant if given how the 2015 class ended with some high-profile guys.
Don’t write off Buchanan and Kincade either. Some guys bloom late.