Can Kelson Come Out and Play?

Remember Drew Kelson? Forced a game-preserving fumble at Ohio State? Key interception at Texas A&M? Stride-for-stride with Reggie Bush in the BCS National Championship? One start in two seasons? How does the multi-tasking senior factor into Texas' defensive scheme as his career draws to a close?

Most recruiting services considered Drew Kelson a prototypical SS when signed as a Parade All-American out of Houston Lamar in 2004.

"He had 3,000 stars next to his name when he came in here," Co-defensive coordinator Duane Akina said. "He could have lent some of his stars because he had so many stars next to his name."

Yet, rather than a starring role, Kelson has made cameo appearances at several positions on both sides of the ball at Texas. As such, Akina describes Kelson as "the ultimate teammate". Indeed, Kelson has been journeyman. His versatility and willingness to play multiple positions, however, have kept him from settling in at a particular spot. Initially, Kelson was moved from to DB to RB in 2004 after Selvin Young's season-ending injury at Arkansas and Eric Hardeman's injuries and off-the-field issues.

"He was highly-recruited as a safety," Akina said, "but we were pretty solid in the secondary (2004). We needed him at tailback as a true freshman, and that set him back."

Then, Kelson replaced Robert Killebrew as Texas' starting SLB during the 2005 non-conference slate. His forced fumble late in the fourth quarter at Ohio State all but sealed Texas 25-22 win. His six tackles against then-No. 10 Texas Tech later that season were a personal best. In essence, he knocked Colorado QB Joel Klatt out of football during the 2005 Big 12 Conference Championship Game. He more than held his own against Heisman winner Reggie Bush and instant replay indicates that, yes, Kelson really did intercept that ball against the Trojans. As such, many thought the 2005 season would serve as a springboard for Kelson and that he would he find his way back to his more natural spot in the secondary.

Not so fast, my friend.

"If anybody has reasons to complain about anything, it would be Drew," Akina continued. "But he understands why we made the decisions we made."

Texas still had the likes of Michael Griffin, Marcus Griffin, Aaron Ross and Tarell Brown in its secondary last season. And Longhorn linebackers were still considered (by fans and media, at least) as the defense's weakest link. ("We needed some help at linebacker, and he helped us out at linebacker," was the way Akina phrased it). Then, just before the 2006 home-opener, Kelson suffered a high ankle sprain from which he never fully recovered in 2006.

"Those high ankle sprains can take forever sometimes," Akina said. "Then there was the emergence of some of those other linebackers. Sergio (Kindle), Roddrick (Muckelroy) and some of those other guys really came on. This year, with the graduation of so many of those defensive backs that we had last year, there was more depth at linebacker. So, Drew lost a couple of years in his man-coverage fundamentals."

Kelson is listed as FS Marcus Griffin's backup but is considered a starter when Texas goes with a dime package. And Kelson's star appears to be on the rise once more. He was in on approximately half of Baylor's 74 snaps last Saturday and will be counted on even more as Texas enters a stretch against pass-happy teams. Nebraska is putting the ball in the air an average of 36.5 times per game while Texas Tech is averaging 56.5 passes per outing. Baylor attempted 56 passes against the Horns with its poor man's version of the Red Raider offense.

"We're starting to face the kind of offenses that we haven't seen earlier," Akina said. "I think his role will increase."

Akina also has a "package" for Kelson in which he functions as a hybrid SS/SLB and draws top assignment when an opponent fields a particularly productive TE. As far as Akina is concerned, Kelson has earned enough scalps on the field while earning his teammate's respect for his selfless play.

"He's a guy that's a principle player," Akina said, "because he's lining up in the Rose Bowl to win the national championship, and going up to Columbus and beating Ohio State in one of the greatest environments and greatest games we've been involved in. Yet, he is supporting every one of his other players. Guys like him add so much value to your team, Other guys see that. The more that you can get really great athletes, like the kind you have here, thinking in terms of 'team' constantly, it can really help you build. He deserves to play more. We'll keep hunting for reps for him."

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