In 2017, Cole Kelley was able to gather a good amount of experience in four starts at quarterback for the Razorbacks. Many fans, reporters and other internet writers question whether Cole Kelley will be the “right fit” at quarterback under new boss hog, Chad Morris. Morris has a rich history coaching quarterbacks and leading offenses at Tulsa with G.J. Kinne and at Clemson with Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson all under cen…. I mean in the shotgun, pistol, hurry up and go offense which Morris studied the HUNH under Auburn head coach and former Arkansas high school coach, Gus Malzahn. Today, I will tell you, it does not matter what other people say. I tell you this, Cole Kelley is the franchise quarterback of the Arkansas Razorbacks and will be for the next few years. At 6’7, fans will clamor to say he looks like Ryan Mallett, aside from the fact he wears the same number. Heck, this kid has more sauce than a Cajun crawfish boil. Many others say Kelley cannot hit the broad side of a barn on his short and intermediate passes and also has a shaky deep ball. If you look at Kelley’s stats as a redshirt freshman you would be surprised to look at the differences between many other freshman or first time starting quarterback at Arkansas in recent history. Take Ryan Mallett for instance, who committed and signed with Michigan out of Texarkana, TX and Texas High School. Mallett has been known for his short and intermediate passes that would be too low or too high but would bruise his recievers hands just for catching it. Here are Ryan’s freshman and sophomore stats:
4 starts: 61-141 892 yards, 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions
12 game weighted scale his stats would look like this:
180/420 2676 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions
225-403 3624 yards, 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions
4 starts: 87/151 1,038 yards 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions
12 game weighted scale his stats would look like this:
264/456 3,120 yards 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions
Based on these averages, Cole Kelley should receive the nod as being a better quarterback his freshman season than Ryan Mallett. This reason is why I am optimistic as to why Kelley will be successful his redshirt sophomore year under Chad Morris. Let us take a look at Clemson QB Tajh Boyd who played 3 seasons under Coach Morris.
298/499 3828 yards, 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions
Per game scale:
21/36 273 yards 2.3 touchdowns and 0.9 interceptions
Again, as a sophomore those were great stats after a great first year under a new coordinator. Which makes me very optimistic Kelley will make due and possibly turn into a star in the shotgun with Chad Morris. Could we see a jump in production with Kelley? Look at the improvement Boyd made both seasons in completion percentage in his junior and season seasons while throwing more touchdowns and interceptions in 2012 and 2013. Yes, I look for marked improvement under Morris this season.
287/427 3896 yards, 36 touchdowns and 13 interceptions
283/413 3851 yards, 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions
You can even look at Watson’s 8 game sample size his freshman season under Morris and be able to tell definitively that he can turn Kelley into a superstar in 2018
93/137 1466 yards 14 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
We should even look at how Chad Morris’ quarterback, Ben Hicks improved in his two seasons.
234/422 2930 yards, 19 touchdowns and 15 interceptions
276/472 3569 yards, 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions
Again, it looks like Coach Morris worked his magic, but this time with a quarterback in a lesser known conference where defense is at a premium and a player who was lightly recruited out of high school. Texas Tech, Baylor, Houston, Tulsa, Indiana, and Southern Miss were his only other offers. If Chad Morris can do that with Ben Hicks, he can definitely improve Cole Kelley.
With the 2018 strength of schedule, Cole Kelley could put modest numbers up early on. Here are my per game predictions for Arkansas’ franchise quarterback this season.
- Eastern Illinois: 17-21 302 yards 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. This is an easy game to pad stats on early in season. Could we see more production like this the first three games? Yes!
- Colorado State: 22/31 327 yards 3 touchdowns 1 interception. This game is on the road and while I see a hostile road crowd early on, Cole will take care of this game and put it out of reach in the third quarter
- North Texas: 37/44 436 yards 4 touchdowns 1 interception. While Arkansas will take command of this game early and put it away, I do see Cole make a mistake early which North Texas will capitalize on but will not make a difference.
- At Auburn: 21-39 286 yards 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. I do not see this one as a win for the Razorbacks and especially with Cole’s first mediocre game to start SEC play.
- Texas A&M: 25/42 337 yards 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. His string of games intercepted continue but Arkansas lights the A&M secondary up this game as they put the Aggies to rest for the first time in six seasons.
- Alabama: 18/39 317 yards 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Arkansas will hang around in this game because of the defense coming on during the middle of the season under Chavis. I see Cole putting up a fight against the Tide but ends in a loss.
- Ole Miss: 21-33 300 yards 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Cole Kelley and the Hogs keep their hot streak going against the Rebels. This time putting the game out of the reach and starters getting rest in the fourth quarter.
- Tulsa: 19-23 283 yards 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. No trap game loss this week for the Razorbacks. Tulsa is still recovering from their worst season in 10 years. Cole Kelley shows out early and the starters get rest again.
- Vanderbilt: 27-41 400 yards 3 touchdowns 1 interception. Due to Derek Mason’s defense, Vandy keeps it close at half but Kelley goes off after that. The fans are woo piggin’ as the Hogs go marching into their bye week.
- LSU: 15/39 257 yards 2 touchdowns and two interceptions. Cole Kelley struggles in this game due to LSU and their stout defense. This game is a toss up again.
- Mississippi State: 20/35 297 yards 2 touchdowns 0 interceptions. This game will not be a track meet at all because it is about two defenses wanting to get to the quarterback and lay the wood on the opposing opposition. Whew pig, this one is another toss up!
- Mizzou:20/38 263 yards 2 touchdowns 1 interception. It’s the season finale and its frigid in Columbia, MO. Cole tosses a couple touchdowns and it is enough. The hogs shock the preseason writers as they are competitive in the SEC Western division again.
Cole Kelley, 2018 projected preseason stats:
262/425 3,805 yards 33 touchdowns and 9 interceptions
Fall practice begins this Thursday, August 3rd. We will soon see how our beloved Hogs will look in 2018. It is only talking season right now anyway.
*Picture credit to Whole Hog Sports