The Chad Kelly story: How the QB came to enroll at Ole Miss
Replacing a three-year starter at quarterback like Bo Wallace isn’t usually an easy process, but Chad Kelly’s enrollment at Ole Miss in January might help expedite the transition for the Rebels.
Kelly is the nephew of Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame passer Jim Kelly, a talented dual-threat quarterback whose collegiate career initially began at Clemson in 2012 before migrating to junior college and now Ole Miss.
Kelly is thought to be the prototypical fit for Hugh Freeze’s offense, as the coach likes to let his quarterback run the read option and take off when necessary. Kelly originally was expected to run a similar system at Clemson as Tajh Boyd’s successor, but immaturity and a series of outbursts cut short his time there.
We took a look back to recap Kelly’s path to Oxford:
At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Kelly’s athleticism and size made him a blue-chip recruit out of high school. Expected to have a major impact at any school he chose to attend, Kelly picked Clemson. He entered school as one of the top-rated dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2012 class across all major scouting services.
But before getting to Clemson, Kelly showed that he might have had some growing up to do when, unsolicited, he called out then-Clemson-backup (and the player he would eventually compete against) Cole Stoudt via Twitter.
“Your on the bench for a reason! And i come soon! Just letting you know,” Kelly wrote to Stoudt Jan. 26, 2012 from @ChadKelly_11.
That wasn’t all Kelly did to grab headlines before college. He also released a self-promoting, swagnado of a rap that year titled — you guessed it — “Chad Kelly,” in which he mentioned his own name 32 times.
His first season with the Tigers, Kelly accepted a redshirt in hopes of being Clemson’s quarterback of the future.
Kelly got off to a hot start in Clemson’s 2013 spring game, completing six of his first seven passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. But then misfortune struck and Kelly tore his ACL during the scrimmage.
However, Kelly miraculously recovered in time to play in five games later that season.
In 55 snaps, Kelly completed 10-of-17 passes for 58 yards. He added 117 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground on just 16 carries.
Kelly was expected to (finally) compete for the starting gig the following year. But that’s when his football career took a drastic turn.
Another spring game and another unfortunate situation for Kelly.
Kelly decided to go nuts on the field when the Clemson coaches sent out the punting unit instead of going for it on fourth-and-short. He engaged in the verbal altercation with the coaches in front of approximately 20,000 fans there to see the game. Keep in mind, this was a scrimmage.
Confronted about it two days later by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris in Swinney’s office, Kelly flipped out again and was unwilling to accept the fact that Stoudt most likely would enter fall camp as the starter.
And that was it for him at Clemson. Swinney decided Kelly’s talent wasn’t worth the trouble that comes with it and released him from the program.
That’s how Kelly arrived at East Mississippi Community College, where he was able to stay out of trouble long enough to win a JUCO national championship in 2014. In an offense similar to that of Freeze, Kelly put up nearly 4,000 yards through the air and rushed for 446 more while completing 67 percent of his passes and throwing 47 touchdowns.
Seeing that kind of production by a quarterback at the same school that Wallace played for before transferring to Ole Miss, recruiting Kelly for 2015 became a no-brainer for Freeze.
But Kelly almost put his second chance in jeopardy before it ever got started with yet another poor decision.
A week after signing with the Rebels, Kelly was arrested in Buffalo, N.Y., after an altercation with a bouncer at a restaurant. Kelly reportedly threatened to get an assault rifle and “spray this place.” However, the charges against Kelly were eventually reduced to disorderly conduct with a punishment of 50 hours of community service as well as drug and alcohol evaluation.
Despite the mishap, Freeze decided to honor Kelly’s scholarship, and the quarterback hasn’t had any incidents since.
Kelly enrolled at Ole Miss with two years of eligibility left and might be the most talented quarterback on the roster.
He won’t be handed the starting job by two former four-star recruits — Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. But if Kelly can maintain a clean record off the field and grow into Freeze’s system as well as many believe he can, he should start for the Rebels sooner than later.
At the very least, the competition at quarterback should be a fun one to watch during fall camp.
Hopefully if Buchanan or Kincade edges out Kelly for the starting job, the latter doesn’t revert back to his old ways and let his frustration get the best of him.