The recruiting season is quickly nearing an end and programs all over are at work to sign full classes and address needs.
Tennessee’s defensive line coach Steve Stripling handles the recruitment of Great Lake State recruits. With the Big Orange showing interest and the need rising to add at least a third back for the 2015 class, head coach Butch Jones and running backs coach Robert Gillespie got involved.
“I was first being recruited by Tennessee last year,” Kelly said. “I got in contact with coach Strip a little bit. I was planning on going down there for a visit, but I didn’t make it. Then, this year I started talking to coach G a little bit more. Then, coach Jones came after me pretty hard. So, those two guys, they were on me. That got the ball rolling. It picked up really well.”
Gillespie knows the importance of having a deep and talented backfield with the grind of the Southeastern Conference schedule. The second-year Tennessee assistant continues to stay in touch with Kelly as often as possible.
“Oh man, coach G has been a great guy,” Kelly said. “He’s been honest; he’s been really good to me.”
“Those are my top 4 for right now. I’m not sure which school has the lead as of right now,” said Kelly, who has never been to Rocky Top.
“I really love the coaching staff there (at Tennessee),” Kelly told InsideTennessee. “Coach Jones being from Michigan, he’s really been trying to get some Michigan guys down there. Tennessee, the top recruits that are going to be there are going to be great. The recruiting class that they’re having is really another bonus. Some of the recruits came after me. It seems like a tough state from a football perspective. I can already tell that it’s going to be a good atmosphere and good vibes when I get down there.
“I heard about (the campus). I heard that it’s amazing, so I can’t wait to get down there next week. But, I’ve definitely heard great things about it.”
The weekend of Jan. 16-18 figures to be a potential game-changing time for the future of Tennessee’s program with several prospects planning to be in Knoxville, including the No. 41-rated back in the nation.
“I really want to get a good look at the academic program there,” said the Scout three-star, who plans to major in broadcasting. “I want to see how the atmosphere is and how the people live there and the kids that’s already on the team. I want to see how everybody acts once I get around them.”
The distance from his hometown to Knoxville is roughly 520 miles, however, he says that is not a factor.
“Oh man, the distance does not matter at all to me,” Kelly said. “My mom understands that. I want to make my decision for what’s best for me. So, the distance, it really wasn’t a factor at all.”
The Volunteers are missing five running backs that were on the team in August that are no longer on the roster. Former Scout four-star Jalen Hurd was the lone scholarship running back returning. Five-star and former Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College runner Alvin Kamara enrolled this week.
“As of right now, I know that they have a few backs there,” Kelly said. “The depth chart, that really plays favorites for me because that’s less people that I have to compete with to go after the starting spot. But at the end of the day, I’m really just going down there to compete no matter where I go.”
Kelly possesses potential elite-level speed for a running back with a hand-timed 4.38-second time in the 40-yard dash.
“I run hard, got good balance, good acceleration and I finish each run out. I’m really versatile as well, catch the ball, pick up blitzes, pretty much do everything that I possibly can at the running back position — and I pretty much succeed at it all.”
Speculation has Kelly wanting to play with friend and four-star back Mike Weber at the next level. While the Oak Park standout says that’d be enticing, they’re not a package deal.
“At the end of the day, I’m going to make the decision that’s best for me,” Kelly said.
Kelly, who looks up to Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, plans to participate in the indoor track season, competing in the 60-meter dash, 200-meter, 4x200 and long jump.