Silliman QB Kelly ready to burst onto scene
e_SDLqThis is a different year. Our numbers are up. Based on this summer and the experience we got, we’re ready to see where he (Kelly) and this offense can take us.” T.J. DAVIS, Silliman football coach
There’s a quarterback who is preparing to open his senior season with a game in Clinton. He can throw the ball, but isn’t afraid to tuck it under his arm and run right at the defense.
Recruiters aren’t sure whether he’ll be a better offensive or defensive player on the college level.
Unlike his East Feliciana Parish counterpart, Kendell Beckwith of East Feliciana High, Silliman Institute’s Cobb Kelly is a lesser-known commodity. That could change, along with the fortunes of the Wildcats.
“Cobb is one those strong, silent types,” Silliman coach T.J. Davis said. “He leads by example. There’s no question he’s a guy we’re going to rely a lot on.
“We tried him at quarterback two years ago, and he wasn’t quite ready and neither were we. We would up changing our offense that year.
“This is a different year. Our numbers are up. Based on this summer and the experience we got, we’re ready to see where he (Kelly) and this offense can take us.”
And for Silliman, the wait won’t last much longer. The Wildcats host sixth-ranked Brookhaven Academy to open the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools regular season at 7 p.m. Friday at home in Clinton.
“Last year, I played running back. And before that, I played receiver and quarterback,” Kelly said. “Playing other positions on offense and playing defensive back helps me.
“I worked on throwing the ball this summer, and I think I improved on that. Even though we’re running a spread, we’ll still probably be running the ball 60 percent, and that suits me.”
Silliman has a solid football tradition. Since winning a Mississippi Private School Association title in 2001, the Wildcats’ title aspirations have been limited.
After going 5-5 last season, Silliman looks to make its mark this fall. And what better way to do it than against Brookhaven, one of several ranked teams on the Wildcats’ schedule.
“This is a big game, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t,” Davis said. “Brookhaven is a team we haven’t beaten in a few years. A couple of times, they beat us pretty good.
“They’re a quality program, and this game will give us an idea where we stand. And it will show what we need to improve on.”
Silliman enters the season with a 32-player roster that is heavy on sophomores and juniors. Kelly is one of eight seniors.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Kelly got the chance to grow in Davis’ spread offense during a series of 7-on-7 games this summer. The Wildcats played MAIS teams and some Louisiana High School Athletic Association teams. They participated in 7-on-7 camps, including one held at LSU.
EFHS’ Beckwith, who also plays his home games in Clinton, has attracted high-profile offers from the likes of LSU and Alabama. Recruiters also have noticed Kelly. The list of schools expressing interest include the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, North Texas, McNeese, Nicholls and Southeastern.
Davis, now in his third year as Silliman head coach, has coached Kelly since middle school and said the recruiting attention is no fluke.
“One of the things that sets him (Kelly) apart is the way he runs,” Davis said.
“Cobb is very elusive. People think they’ll have him or they can run him down, and then he gets loose. He’s a guy who makes plays.”
To that end, the move to the spread offense makes sense for Silliman. By snapping the ball to Kelly, the Wildcats will start each play with the ball in the hands of a playmaker.
Davis said there will be times when Kelly lines up at running back and wide receiver, too. The fact that Kelly’s younger brother, Zach, is set to get some playing time as a freshman running back adds to the Silliman storyline.
Kelly, rated as one of the MAIS’ top 40 seniors by the High School Sports in Mississippi website hssportsms.com, deflects praise and points instead to Silliman’s large line that features seniors Brady Brian (6-3, 278) and Michael Austin (5-11, 265) along with sophomores Jozie Milton (6-2, 320) and Jordan Talley (6-2, 240).
“Our line is going to make it possible for us to do a lot of things,” Kelly said. “They’re worked hard to get better. We all have. That’s why we’re excited about the start of the season.”