The narrative around recent Rebel commitment Chad Kelly has been predictable.
All the catch phrases are there: second chance, redemption, a gamble and clean slate have all been used ad nauseum, and rightly so considering Kelly's "track record" and the publicity and circumstances for which he left Clemson over a year ago.
He was bound to draw attention - good and bad - wherever he landed, but if you talk to East Mississippi Community College Offensive Coordinator Marcus Wood, you'd quickly forget all of those talking points.
Kelly led the Lions to yet another JUCO national title and, along the way, endeared himself to Wood and his teammates with both his play and his behavior.
"I will say this on the record - I have three boys and I would let Chad babysit them any time he wanted to. He's an awesome kid - I never had one single issue with him," said Wood, who watched Kelly throw for 47 TDs last season despite several games where he only played a series or two into the second half due to large EMCC leads.
Wood said Kelly took a hat-in-hand approach to coming to EMCC.
"He knew he had made some mistakes and he was looking for redemption and a second chance," said Wood, who has been the OC at East since 2011 and also directed current Reb QB Bo Wallace in another national title run. "We gave him a clean slate and he took advantage of it.
"Chad has been outstanding here. He proved quickly to his teammates and to our coaching staff that he is, number one, a good guy; number two, a tremendously hard worker; and three, a great leader and player. Everyone rallied around him. His past was never an issue."
(For the record, let's define "his past." Some immaturity, some bad decisions in his approach to accepting coaching decisions, a little rebellion, nothing that every teenager doesn't go through. Kelly's was just publicized. Mistakes? Sure. Correctable mistakes? Definitely.)
As for his skill set, Wood began with Kelly's huddle management, i.e., leadership.
"Chad took over the huddle and really pushed the tempo game. He knew exactly what we wanted as coaches and delivered. His football savvy is off the charts. You tell him something once and he's got it. He's really special in the mental side of the game," Wood added. "As for his physical skills, all I can say is that he's got an outstanding arm and can make all the throws and he is really, really good running the ball.
"I'm telling you - he is a special talent. What impressed me the most while he was here was that his decision-making got better with each game. He's not a gunslinger who tries to force things and show off his arm strength. He takes what is given by the defense. He doesn't turn the ball over much - he protects it."
The only debate left, it seems, is Kelly's size. He's been listed anywhere from 6-1, 195 to 6-3 220. Wood said to split the difference.
"Chad is 6-1 1/2, maybe 6-2, and he weighs about 210," Wood noted.
Wood didn't really want to get into any kind of comparison with Wallace, but he said they do have very similar on-the-field personalities.
"Both are fierce competitors, both are fiery and both are as tough as they come," he noted. "We run a similar offense as Ole Miss, but we didn't run Chad as much as Ole Miss likes to run their quarterback because we didn't want to risk him getting hurt. Ole Miss will run him more and I think that's a strength of Chad's."
As you can tell, Wood is a Chad Kelly fan. Why not? The results defy any criticism and the personal relationship he built with Kelly runs deep.
"Chad is a tremendous talent, but he's an even better kid. He's going to come to Ole Miss with his hard hat on, he's going to get after it, he's going to be a good leader, he's going to learn quickly and he's going to make a positive impact on the Ole Miss program," Wood closed. "He has a hunger to prove himself and put the past behind him. He proved that here and he will prove it in Oxford."
That just about says it all.
Coach's View: Chad Kelly
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