Michigan Connects with Caleb Kelly

Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West LB Caleb Kelly has been regarded as one of the West Coast’s hottest prospects for some time now. Things got even hotter for the 2016 standout last week when Jim Harbaugh gave the green light for Michigan’s hat to be put in the ring.

For Caleb Kelly receiving an offer from Michigan late last week wasn’t totally unexpected, but it was nonetheless fulfilling.  That news was delivered by a coach with whom he has a lot in common with made it even more of treat.

“Coach (John) Baxter is from the 559 and that’s where I’m from,” said Perry regarding his Michigan recruiter.  “(Longtime Fresno area defensive backs) Coach (Tony) Perry is all over and does everything for me.  He does all the recruiting and getting my name out.  We’re now up to 20 offers.  He has been doing his job real good and he’s has like 80 guys in Division One now.  (Baxter) is like his boy from Michigan.  I kind of already know (Baxter) my coach (knowing) him.  He’s from Fresno too and he said that he coached at Fresno (State) for (13) years and he has a daughter at Sierra High School.  That was pretty cool that he knows where I’m from and he knows where I am with everything.  That was like the first impression I got of him.  He gets on (the phone) with me and he told me right away, ‘how does it feel to get a Michigan offer?’  It was kind of funny.”

Kelly’s knowledge of Michigan has grown a great deal over the past year. He has stayed in consistent contact with Michigan Director of Player Personnel Chris Singletary, Tony Perry is also a source of Maize & Blue info based on his experience sending former protégé Johnny Sears to Ann Arbor a decade ago, and there are others in his circle that count themselves as fans.

“I heard there was 112,000 (tickets) sold out every game.  That was pretty cool,” said Perry.  “I’ve got a lot of friends that like Michigan.  One of my best friends, that’s his favorite college and he’s always telling me stuff about it.  I know a little bit about the fans over there.  I haven’t seen the campus, I haven’t done a virtual tour or anything.  I’m just going off what I know just by my friends.  In the future I hope I get to go over there.  That would be cool to take a visit over there.”

Michigan’s coaching staff surely agrees.  Getting him on campus is a critical element in the Wolverines’ quest to rise up his list.  To date he has visited each of the PAC-12 schools in California and Oklahoma.  While trips have clearly made favorable impressions, he has worked hard to keep an open mind.

“I guess some have stuck out a little bit in my head but I haven’t looked at it that much.  I haven’t started narrowing anything down or anything like that.  I haven’t had the time to research all 20 schools.”

“I kind of hope that I get that feeling that when I go to a college where I just know this is the place for me.  (A place where) the coaches are good, the strength and conditioning is good, the academics are good and everything just kind of works out.  That’s basically how it goes or at least that’s what I heard.  Everything has gone like that for all the players that I’ve talked to.  Even my cousin who is going to Nebraska on an academic scholarship said, ‘I just knew that I wanted to go to Nebraska and everything just worked out.’  I hope I get that feeling that, ‘this is the place.’  I haven’t gotten it yet. 
The opportunity for playing time early in his collegiate career will be another major factor, and based on Kelly’s considerable talent odds are that will be available at whatever program he lands at.

“My size is the first thing that people are going to notice,” Kelly said describing his game.  “I’m, 6-3, 215, I’ve got 6-11 wingspan, and long arms.  Then when you start watching my game you’ll see that I’m very athletic.  I have the ability to guard a slot receiver, which most linebackers can’t do.  (Most teams) usually have to bring a safety down, but I can do that.  I play offense too so I have very good hand-eye coordination.  I can catch the ball.  I’m not just a rock-hand linebacker (laughter).  I study up on games.  Against most teams I’m telling my teammates what the plays are going to be just by their formation and how their guys look.  I’m a people person so I can tell when a guy is anxious.  I’m really good at reading body language.  I’m like, ‘oh he’s going to get the ball,’ and all of a sudden he gets the ball. 

“I really know the game.  I’m just a student of the game and I love learning about football.”

That sounds like a coach’s dream, which is why Kelly’s offer list is quickly approaching two dozen.  En route to that impressive tally he has grown accustomed to chatting it up with head coaches, but he is still really looking forward to speaking with Jim Harbaugh for the first time.

“That is home for him.  He went to college there and he might just stay there for the rest of his life.”

“Stats don’t lie. (The 49ers under Harbaugh’s guidance) went to a bunch of NFC Championships.  Thy won and they lost some, but he got them there… and that’s one of the step ahead of the Super Bowl, and he’s even gone to the Super Bowl.  The stats are there.”

What’s not yet is the relationship with Kelly. Fortunately for Michigan theirs is plenty of time to build it.

“I’m probably not going to commit until signing day,” he said.  “I was always thinking of making a top five, but I think I’m going to have to make a top 10 by September 1st, which is when the colleges can start calling us. I don’t want to be getting 60 calls a day. I want to narrow it down a little bit before they can start calling me.”

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