The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Kelsey played in 12 games last season but was still expected to play behind Keith Brown, who was a freshman All-American two years ago and is back after sitting out last season with an injury.
But when the U of L defense takes the field on Monday night in the opener against it will be Kelsey making the start at the mike linebacker spot.
”I have been working so hard this summer,” Kelsey said. “I think it started off the field in the class room, putting some weight on in the weight room and getting in the film room. Just trying to show the coaches they can depend on me.”
U of L defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Kelsey was “very deserving” of getting a start against the Hurricanes after his fall camp that was “really solid.”
”He’s so intelligent,” Grantham said. “He’s a guy who has embraced trying to become a better player and is passionate about his position and our team in general. He takes things from the class room and makes it better on the field.”
Grantham coached Kelsey’s cousin, Andre Davis, in the NFL at Cleveland and said Kelsey is “so much like him.” Davis was a second-team All-American in 2001 and played nine years in the NFL with three teams.
”He’s a winner,” Grantham said. “He gets the job done.”
Kelsey played at Gainesville High School and is the son of Keith Kelsey Sr., who played at Florida. The younger Kelsey was the No. 33 linebacker in the country in the Class of 2013, according to Scout.com.
He committed just before signing day in Jan. of 2013 and saw action early last season with the Cardinals as a true freshman. He had a season-high five tackles in the second game of the season, a win over Eastern Kentucky.
”I was just trying to go out there and help the team in any way I could last year, special teams even,” he said. “Whatever the coaches asked for me.
”I didn’t care what they asked me, I just did what coach (Charlie) Strong said he needed me to do on the field.”
Kelsey finished with 24 tackles, including one tackle for a loss, and two pass breakups during his freshman season.With the new coaching change, Kelsey said he’s “very excited” because he played in a 3-4 defensive scheme – what Grantham uses – in high school.
Grantham said he’s shown major improvement and two of Kelsey’s defensive teammates, including senior Lorenzo Mauldin said he might be the most improved player on the defense from last season.
Kelsey said he’s “just ready” to get onto the field.
”Being a leader with my actions,” he said. “Not really being a vocal leader but just showing them I can be a leader with my actions. I want to go out there and do whatever my team needs me to do. We just want to win.
”The new defense will be fun, we have some good players.”