Aug. 18, 2016
By Dylan Edwards, OleMissSports.com
Last season, Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly broke numerous school records, picked up more yards in SEC history than anyone not named Johnny Manziel, and led Ole Miss to its first Sugar Bowl victory since 1970. None of that is new information, but this is to break down how he accomplished such a remarkable season in his first year in Oxford.
Kelly led Ole Miss to wins at venues where victories have been difficult to come by for the Rebels over the years, namely Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Starkville. He broke the 300-yard barrier against both Alabama and Auburn in the same year which had only been done by two other QBs over the past decade (Manziel and Matt Flynn).
Ole Miss QBs in Starkville, Auburn and Tuscaloosa
W-L 0-16 3-0
Comp pct 53.0 63.2
Yards per att 5.4 8.4
Pass YPG 172.4 319.3
TD-INT 15-25 7-2
Anyone that has seen Kelly play knows he has a big arm, but Kelly puts it to use effectively in games. He ranked in the top-20 nationally in both completion percentage and yards per attempt. He was pushing the ball down field but also maintaining accuracy. Only three other Power 5 QBs accomplished that feat.
Kelly threw 64 completions for 20+ yards, ranking second in the Power 5 behind only the No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. These completions did not come cheaply, either, with the WR doing most of the work. Of the 64, all but one throw crossed the line of scrimmage in the air, meaning it was not on a screen play. Fifty traveled at least 10 yards in the air before the catch was made.
Speaking of throws that traveled at least 10 yards in the air, Kelly completed 55 percent of them, nearly 10 percent better than the Power 5 average. Kelly was as good as anyone last season on those type of throws.
Pass Traveled 10+ Yards in the Air
Power 5 Rank
Comp 93 6th
Comp pct 55.4 5th
Yards per att 13.3 6th
TDs 22 6th
One knock on Kelly last season was his 13 INTs, which were tied for 11th-most in the nation. However, he only threw interceptions on 2.8 percent of pass attempts, ranking him in the middle of the pack at 77th of 123 eligible QBs.
More importantly, he did not throw interceptions when it mattered. In the red zone, Kelly completed 64 percent of his passes with 13 TDs and one INT. The lone INT was against New Mexico State in a game that was never in doubt. Adding to that, he led the SEC in fourth quarter pass TDs with seven.
Due to a running game that was inconsistent throughout the season, Kelly did not pass much against stacked boxes. For 336 of his 458 pass attempts, the defense put six or fewer players in the box against him. On top of that, the opposing defense blitzed Kelly on fewer than 19 percent of drop backs, ranking 61st of 64 qualifying Power 5 QBs. That means working against two high safeties with great regularity.
When teams did decide to stack the box against him with seven or more defenders, Kelly was lethal. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes and added 16 TDs with only one interception. To put those numbers into context, his completion percentage was nearly 10 percent higher than the Power 5 average and the best in the SEC. In the conference, only Brandon Allen had more TD passes in that situation, but Allen had 124 more pass attempts because of Arkansas' offense.
If Ole Miss can establish a running game in 2016, the Rebels have a QB that can make a defense suffer if they commit to stop the rush. On throws outside the numbers, Kelly showed off his arm strength by completing 65 percent of passes to led all Power 5 QBs. Even discounting bubble screens by only counting only passes that crossed the line of scrimmage, Kelly ranked third in completion percentage, first in yards and first in TDs on those type of throws.
Kelly really spread the ball around in Freeze's offense. He obviously leaned heavily on Laquon Treadwell with 123 targets but the next four receivers in Evan Engram, Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore'ea Stringfellow all were targeted essentially the same number of times.
Chad Kelly by Target
Targets Comp Yards
Treadwell 123 80 1,134
Engram 58 38 464
Core 57 37 644
Adeboyejo 57 36 521
Stringfellow 57 34 490
Pack 38 28 363
Kelly was in his first season starting in 2015 and the stats show he was one of the best QBs in the nation. At SEC Media Days he said he wanted to be the best QB in the nation, not just the league in 2016. It doesn't seem that far fetched.