So far, so good
Chad Kelly arrived at Ole Miss in January with, um, an interesting off-the-field history.
On the field, though, there’s no denying his talent.
The Rebels are in their third week of spring practices, and Kelly has certainly impressed as he competes with redshirt sophomores Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade to be the team’s starting quarterback next fall.
Kelly, a former four-star prospect, led East Mississippi Community College to an NJCAA national championship last season, finishing with 3,906 passing yards and 47 touchdowns. He rushed for 446 yards and four touchdowns.
“He has it all to me,” Kincade said. “He can throw, get out of the pocket. He’s got a nice arm. I feel like he’s got the package in my eyes.”
“He’s got a great arm,” Buchanan said. “He can really spin the ball. He’s getting used to the playbook, getting used to making decisions against our defense. But he’s really good. He’s a good quarterback.”
Perhaps more importantly, however, Kelly has steered clear of negative headlines. Sandwiched in between two weeks of practice was a mission trip to Haiti for spring break, a trip Kelly was encouraged to take by Freeze, who led the group of current players, coaches and additional Ole Miss representatives.
“Really pleased with everything he’s done to this point,” Freeze said. “I’m very aware that any of these young men can make a decision that is wrong. He’s got very little rope to do that with. But very pleased to this point. He studies film, he’s a competitor, he’s a team guy.”
“Coach Freeze preaches brotherhood and things like that,” Kincade said. “It’s just normal. He’s a brother. He’s on our team now, so we bring him in as a brother and help him out as much as possible.”
Kelly, Kincade and Buchanan are vying for the quarterback job vacated by three-year starter Bo Wallace. Wallace graduated following the Rebels’ 9-4 season a year ago, leaving behind six Ole Miss career records, including total offensive yards and 300-yard passing games.
Freeze said the competition is wide open, with no one quarterback rising above the rest so far. He doesn’t anticipate naming a No. 1 by the end of spring practices, which culminate in the annual Grove Bowl game April 11.
“We’re charting every single throw and it’s really close between all three,” Freeze said. “It kind of depends on the day. Ryan’s had his great days, Kincade’s done well at times and so has Chad. We’ll compile it all after (this week) and look at it again. It’s really close.”
“It’s fun competing,” Kincade said. “I love competing. If (Kelly) makes something good, I tell him. I make something good, he tells me. We tell Ryan. We all share with each other.”
An advantage for Kincade and Buchanan is their knowledge of the offense. The pair has a three-year jump on Kelly, the nephew of former Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly.
Kelly is having to learn on the fly. And, in some ways, he’s playing catch-up. Still, Freeze said Kelly “made some really good plays” in Tuesday’s practice, even if “it’s moving a little fast for him.”
“If we’re not in our fastest pace and you can talk to him, he has an understanding of the game,” he said. “He really has a good understanding. He’s been taught the game. But if we’re in tempo and it’s something new, he might struggle with ‘Alright, did I call that exactly right?’ It makes him uncertain and he plays a little slow.”
Slow as he may be at times, junior Rebel wide receiver Laquon Treadwell said Kelly believes in his ability and isn’t afraid to take chances with his throws – a trait Treadwell, who is limited this spring as he recovers from an ankle injury, has seen before in an Ole Miss quarterback.
“He’ll throw it out there and let you run under it,” Treadwell said. “Chad’s a competitor, just like Bo. He’s got the competitive effort to do whatever it takes to win. You can see it in him – the way he practices, the way he carries himself.
“And he likes to be a leader, too.”
So far, so good.
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