After almost two years on the Clemson campus, he's got it. Kelly, Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson are approaching month No. 2 in the battle.
"I've been waiting for this 10th, ninth grade, something like that. It just feels good to be out here. I didn't even want practice to end, to be real," Kelly said, after the first spring practice of the year.
Among the confidence sources that Kelly tapped into before Wednesday was one of his performances at Orange Bowl practice.
"Wednesday before the bowl game, I went about 20-for-20 in a game-type setting against the No. 1 D," Kelly said. "It gave me a little confidence after that."
He added, "I think I gained the most confidence in bowl practice…those were my best practices I've ever had as a Clemson Tiger."
Heading into 2014, Kelly also feels like he has the best tools among the trio of candidates.
"I'm not trying to be conceited, but I feel like, personally, I have the strongest arm and best accuracy, but I only had 17 times to throw last year and that was all in mop up time with plays that are basic," he said. "Once you get the whole playbook open, I feel like a lot more stuff will open up, especially if I can run the ball, people are going to be a lot more open than normal."
Among the topics of conversation with Kelly after Wednesday's practice were, of course, his two competitors.
What's your first take on Deshaun?
"He's really good, man, really calm. I like the way he throws. He's very calm when he throws. Otherwise, he's a good player. He's young, too. This playbook isn't easy. For a freshman to come in, I knew football a lot, too. To come in as a freshman and be able to operate this offense at a high level, knowing everything and changing stuff up that we did from last year, it's very hard to do for anybody."
Do you and Cole have any kind of a relationship, as far as off the field. Do you go out together, have lunch, have dinner, go to a movie?
"As a matter of fact, coach [Chad Morris] just started, once a week we go out to eat as a group, a whole group, quarterbacks, GA's and everybody, we all go out to eat at a certain spot, whoever picks that week, we go out to eat. It's pretty nice. We never did anything like that, but hanging out off the field, me and Cole, not really. I mean, everybody is friends. A lot of people are close with certain people and everything."
After one day, the competition is far from settled. There are still several practices, weeks, maybe even months before that happens.
In the meantime, Kelly thinks he can be a leader, the leader that a quarterback is expected to be.
"You've got to have people around you, wanting to get close to you," he said. "I feel like I have good relationships with the people off the field, hanging out with people and just always talking about football. That's just a way you can get better, having a better camaraderie along with the team and stuff like that, because people are going to want to rally around you.
"If something goes wrong and coach gets angry, they look to you. If you have a good relationship, they'll all look to you, to make everybody better."
Best foot forward
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