According to the West Chester, OH native, “I think yes and no. When you change from a huddle offense to a no huddle offense things are going to be different. I think we did run out of a little bit of gas but I think there were bigger aspects of why we lost versus just being tired.” Kelly conceded a play to win first half attitude contrasted with a play not to lose in the last 30 minutes. Coincidentally he stated the same reason for Alabama falling short in the road loss to Ole Miss.
Conditioning is the key to maximizing the fast paced tempo attack. The core philosophy of the Kiffin offense is more plays equate to more opportunities to score. Inspiration exists with this year’s edition to reconcile the stamina shortcomings. Kelly said Alabama has addressed the issue in the off-season. “We hold our four fingers up in the fourth quarter for a reason. We want to dominate people in the fourth quarter. Look at the Auburn game, I think it’s great. There was great determination in that. We came back in the fourth quarter and really imposed our will which led us into the SEC Championship Game. As long as we continue to hold our standards to what we have set for ourselves, we’ll be fine.”
All five quarterbacks received reps with the first team offense. They are selfless and share a spirit de corps Kelly revealed. “They are going to learn from each other and teach each other. It is a leadership driven position and you need that. All five of those guys have done a great job,” he replied. Kelly did not volunteer a prediction on the eventual starter but has confidence in the candidates.
Alabama has a deep and gifted roster able to line-up against any team in the nation and compete to win. A downside to the abundance of talent is not everyone is consumed by the ultimate goal of winning a national championship. Visions of the joining the professional ranks are distractions for certain individuals. Draft grades received prior to the college football playoffs may have altered the intensity and commitment level of a few future NFL prospects.
Preparation is affected by a few non-conformers. “It didn’t change the way guys I associated with every day. Heck, I don’t know. Everybody has a different way to prepare for a game but to say that it didn’t affect anybody is obviously a lie. That is probably in the back of a lot of guys heads,” said the fifth-year senior. A few lacking mental focus can sabotage the majority according to Kelly. “They can bring down positive guys a heck of a lot easier than positive guys can bring up negative guys.”
Every year the prize remains the same for Alabama – a national championship. A summer spent dwelling on the end result can be all-consuming but the coaching staff counters with a philosophy. “We have a saying. You see a little, you see a lot. You see a lot, you see nothing. The big goal is the national championship. If that’s all you see you don’t see what is in front of you. For us we take it one day at a time,” Kelly explained. “Once you start building that mental edge it becomes easier. Right now we are not looking ahead to week eight. We are looking forward to camp or game one against Wisconsin in Dallas. If you start looking at the bigger picture you can get beat.”
Kelly eschews watching sports on television. Golf, hunting and fishing with teammates are the outlets to nullify the minutiae and prevent burning out on the game of football. Shared activity fosters relationships. A player’s motivation can be revealed during those exercises. Quarterback hopeful Jacob Coker and Kelly have developed a tight bond. They are in the same masters program as well as being hunting and fishing buddies. Kelly acknowledges the fifth-year senior quarterback has the edge on the field and stream circuit.
Health is always an issue with any football player. Kelly decompressed after the season with a short break from the game. The summer is a time for strength and conditioning. “We call it putting the armor on so when you gain muscle you put armor on so you can last through the season. If you do not really push yourself in the summer time, you are not going to last.”
Ryan Kelly is one of the key leaders for the Alabama program. Off-the-field issues can obliterate any chances of achieving athletically. Team camaraderie is the long arm reaching out to shield those on the brink of making wrong decisions. Watch and listen to the video of the veteran center discussing players he admired, reflections on last year, the return of versatile running back Kenyan Drake and other matters concerning the 2015 Alabama football season.