Kelly Named Ole Miss Starter

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze named junior college transfer Chad Kelly his starting quarterback for the Rebels' season-opening game against UT-Martin Saturday at 11 a.m.

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Ole Miss finally has its starting quarterback.

Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze said, barring a change of course this week in practice, junior college transfer Chad Kelly will take first snaps in the team’s season-opening game against UT-Martin Saturday at 11 a.m.

“(Monday) in practice Chad’s going take the snap with the (first team),” Freeze said. “I anticipate that carrying on throughout the week leading up to Saturday. Unless something just totally changes my mindset.”

Kelly has been locked in three-man competition with redshirt sophomores Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade since spring practices in April. Freeze said Kelly’s consistency over the last three weeks won out, albeit ever so slightly.

“We have a chart that I look at everyday that has tracked every single rep that every quarterback has had,” Freeze said. “If you look at pass percentages, turnovers, scoring drives, all of those things, he has a slight edge on the other two.

“I expect all three to play. I don’t want to be quoted today that it’s locked in stone (that Kelly will be the starter). It is a very close competition. I like all three.”

Kelly signed with Ole Miss out of East Mississippi Community College in February. He led the Lions to an NJCAA national championship over Iowa Western last season, completing 40 of 53 passes for 434 yards and five touchdowns. In all, he totaled 3,906 passing yards and 47 touchdowns, as well as 446 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

“He’s a competitor,” junior wide receiver Laquon Treadwell said. “That’s really what made the difference. He’ll take a lot of shots. Things we were doing in game situations, he looked good at doing it.”

Treadwell said Freeze actually approached him regarding the quarterback battle. The fourth-year head coach wanted his star wide receiver’s opinion.

“I couldn’t help him on that because they had one of those camps where all the guys were competing and looked good,” said Treadwell, who will seeing his first game action since suffering a broken leg against Auburn in November when the Rebels take on the Skyhawks.

“Chad has been taking a lot of the first team reps. He looks good. It was a close decision.”

But Kelly can’t get comfortable. Freeze said Buchanan and Kincade will be given ample opportunity to claim the job for themselves. Ole Miss is attempting to replace three-year starter Bo Wallace, who graduated following last season’s 9-4 finish. Wallace is leaving behind six Ole Miss career records, including total offensive yards and 300-yard passing games.

“I would hope that it becomes obvious as we go, that I know who our guy is,” Freeze said. “Certainly at some point you’ve got to name a starter for a given game, but that doesn’t mean he has to start the next game. But once you get into a rhythm and a guy (starts) two or three times, I guess everyone is going to say he’s our starter until he proves otherwise. I do expect to do that. I think you have to, not that we can’t have packages for the other guys also.”

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