Darius Kelly came to Syracuse last season after enduring some hardships throughout his high school football career. This season, he enters the spring as a veteran. The senior safety is still humbled by the position he is in.
"One year later, it's still just about being able to get here," Kelly said. "Getting to know everyone, know everything. It's a lot easier and a lot slower for me. So that's been good."
"Playing time last year, it helps a lot coming into this year. I know what to expect, I know what I need to accomplish."
Kelly is the starter at free safety according to the spring depth chart, and he has the inside track to land that spot when the Orange open the season against Villanova.
His second year in the system, the senior safety feels more at ease entering this season.
"I'm a lot more comfortable," Kelly said. "A whole lot more comfortable. Being able to know what I'm supposed to do and just know every time I make a wrong step I can point it out on film. I can see things a lot faster and a lot easier.
"Coaches haven't really told me anything about being the starter next season, but I'm there now and I have to take advantage of it. Just give it everything I have so my play speaks for itself."
Syracuse lost three of its four starting defensive backs from week one of last season. This year's starters, while coming in with some experience, are trying to take that group to the next level.
"We're just trying to learn the little things," Kelly said. "Improve on the things we messed up last year. Going back and looking at old film to see what we did well and what we need to fix. We're just trying to constantly improve.
"We're probably right where we need to be at this point. We're putting in things here and there, working hard. So I think we're right where we need to be."
Kelly looked noticeably bigger than last season when speaking with CuseNation.com. That is the result of an intense offseason regiment that helps him develop his body.
"Just constantly pounding the weights, pounding the running," Kelly said. "Try to hit my body as hard as I can because the offseason doesn't have as much contact. Just try to keep pounding without all that rest you get during the season when you're playing every week. Working on strength and speed."
With his last season in a Syracuse uniform in front of him, Kelly's goal is to enjoy every moment of his collegiate experience.
"I'm just going to try to give my all each and every game," Kelly said. "One hundred percent effort. I'm going to cherish every moment and go as hard as I can."