Chad Kelly could put Ole Miss in SEC title race
Ole Miss was supposed to look dominant in its season opener against Tennessee-Martin Saturday, so the Rebels’ 76-3 win shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. It would also be foolish to draw too many big conclusions from that one game.
However, there is reason for optimism among Ole Miss fans over the play of new quarterback Chad Kelly. He completed 9 of 15 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, good for an impressive yards per attempt average of 14.1. He also added a rushing touchdown.
We won’t have our grades for Kelly’s performance available for a little while, but this looks to be a promising start for Kelly. This is significant because of who Kelly is replacing — Bo Levi Wallace, who was one of our lowest-graded quarterbacks in college football last season. Of 54 QBs with enough snaps to qualify, Wallace ranked 40th in the country against Power-5 competition. Only two SEC QBs — Missouri’s Maty Mauk and Kentucky’s Patrick Towles — graded worse.
Despite that, Ole Miss was right in the thick of the playoff race last season, and it had one of our best-graded defenses in the country. There is a lot of talent on this Rebels team, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a jump in performance from the likes of DT Robert Nkemdiche (who flashed his athleticism with a touchdown catch against UT Martin), WR Laquon Treadwell and LT Laremy Tunsil (who was held out of this game while the NCAA reportedly looks into whether he accepted improper benefits) this season, to name a few. All three players graded well for us last season, but not nearly as highly as you might expect based on their talent, so they could all be due for jumps in performance in their third seasons in 2015.
If Kelly can even be a slightly above-average quarterback for the Rebels this season, that should make them a competitor for the SEC title. We’ll know much more in the coming weeks, but Saturday represented a good start.