Freeze looks foolish following news of Chad Kelly arrest
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze ate crow for breakfast Monday morning following news that recent JUCO transfer Chad Kelly had been arrested in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., over the weekend.
Freeze spent less than a month heavily recruiting the former Clemson signal caller and officially signed him last Wednesday on JUCO Signing Day. Less than a week later, Kelly was involved in an incident at a Buffalo nightclub involving a fight with bouncers and threats of retrieving an AK 47 from his truck.
Deadspin released footage of the altercation Monday morning, and it’s as disastrous as the initial reports led on.
Kelly now faces multiple charges, including third-degree assault, second-degree harassment, second-degree menacing, resisting arrest, fourth-degree criminal mischief and second-degree obstructing governmental administration.
It’s also unlikely he’ll be taking snaps for the Rebels as expected next fall.
Freeze went out on a limb by signing the talented quarterback with a checkered past, and that move has already proven itself unwise.
Here’s a list of just some of the warning signs Freeze overlooked in trying to address the Rebels issues at quarterback following the departure of current senior Bo Wallace after the season:
- According to LostLettermen.com, Kelly was suspended and later kicked off his high school team for behavioral issues.
Re: Chad Kelly. Suspended final 7 games of H.S. frosh year. Kicked off H.S. team as a sophomore. Kicked off Clemson. Now this.
— LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) December 22, 2014
- Kelly signed with Clemson out of high school and after two seasons (one spent as a redshirt) was kicked off the team for arguing with coaches on the sideline of the Tigers 2014 spring game. According to Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, it wasn’t Kelly’s first indecent since joining the program.
“He has had a pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program,” Swinney said after Kelly was dismissed. “I hope he will mature and grow from this and become the man and player I know he can be. I wish him nothing but the best in the future academically and athletically.”
- Kelly was also being considered by SEC power programs like Alabama and LSU, but neither school ever pulled the trigger by making him an offer. Considering how poorly LSU’s quarterback play was this season and the upcoming departure of Alabama’s Blake Sims, it’s telling that both schools opted to address those issues without enlisting Kelly’s services.
Kelly’s dismissal from Clemson clearly didn’t change him for the better. He spent a year as the top JUCO quarterback in the nation, leading East Mississippi Community College to its third national title in four years, and then followed that success by signing with Ole Miss.
It took him less than a week to flush that all down the drain.
The question to ask is not Why would Kelly blow an opportunity by making such stupid decisions? His history of making bad decisions and behaving immaturely precedes him.
The better question is Why did Freeze think Kelly had changed?
The Rebels head coach told the media he was “convinced” Kelly had changed following a home visit earlier this month.
“I did my home visit with he and his family after the championship game and was convinced he was the guy we wanted to go on,” Freeze said on Signing Day last Wednesday.
Obviously, Freeze was wrong. Very wrong. Now the future of his program as well as his credibility as a coach are in question.
To clarify, no one is saying Freeze is a bad person. Freeze wasn’t the one fighting bouncers or making threats regarding a pretty serious weapon. But a player he’s now responsible for is guilty of all of that, forcing us to question his motives in pursuing Kelly.
It wasn’t until current backup quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade struggled in a Nov. 22 loss to Arkansas that Freeze and his staff began recruiting Kelly. Wallace is a former EMCC quarterback himself, so there was reason to believe Kelly was capable of assuming the Rebels job.
But again, there was also reason to believe his immaturity might override his talent. Alabama and LSU likely thought better of signing Kelly, while Freeze clearly did not.
Freeze was willing to look the other way regarding Kelly’s past mistakes in order to lock down his best-case scenario at quarterback for 2015. Now he has no quarterback once again, and he appears exposed as a coach willing to put talent above morality.
Last season, four different Rebels were arrested during the offseason. None of the charges those players faced were anywhere near as serious as the charges Kelly faces after last weekend’s incident, but those players do indicate a trend of troubled players entering the Ole Miss program.
For what it’s worth, Freeze has been known to hand down discipline following such incidents. All-SEC linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche sat out a Week 1 win over Boise State for a minor incident last year, and other players were penalized away from the field for similar issues.
Players that young are prone to making bad decisions, and Freeze often responds to those mistakes with an appropriate punishment to fit the crime.
Freeze released a statement Sunday night saying “we are gathering facts on the matter,” regarding Kelly’s altercation, but it seems the nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly will never play a snap for Freeze. And that is probably for the best.
Nevertheless, the head coach’s commitment to the troubled star within such an abbreviated timeline is unsettling. Freeze remains one of the best recruiters among the SEC’s head coaches, but he was burned this time around.
The sooner Ole Miss can move on from the Chad Kelly mess, the better. But Freeze ought to take the lesson he learned through all this to heart, or risk future mishaps down the line as the Rebels grow into a premier program in the SEC.