If the 6-foot-4, 205-pound field general manages to do anywhere near as well as Casey and Kelly, Casey Kelly may just turn out to be a huge steal for a Tennessee recruiting campaign that has been short of pleasant surprises.
Ranked No. 21 at his position by Scout.com, Kelly was a three-year starter at Sarasota High School. He passed for 1,104 yards as a sophomore. He improved as a junior, connecting on 58 percent of his pass attempts (128 of 223) for 1,809 yards 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His total was highlighted by a 97-yard TD pass plus he rushed 54 times for 95 yards with five touchdowns.
He was sidelined the last four games as a senior, but managed to post some good numbers in six contests including over 1,300 yards passing with 12 touchdowns.
Kelly is also a highly regarded baseball prospect who could be taken in June’s MLB Draft. He’s been granted permission to play both sports for Tennessee which could make for a nifty double-play if he’s not called out by the pros.
“I do have an opportunity in June to get drafted,” Kelly told IT. “You just don’t know. Some say you’ll go in the first round, just like Matt Holiday, he signed to go to Oklahoma State and he was supposed to be a first rounder and he didn’t get picked until the fifth round. There’s a lot of scenarios we’ve been going over. You don’t know really until that day that’s why I’m focusing on picking the college I want to go to for four years, and play football, play baseball and if everything works out it works out. Definitely getting a degree is very important. I’m just focusing on picking a college that fits me best.”
Interestingly the Vols have had several quarterbacks over the years that also played baseball and did both very well. Condredge Holloway turned down a $100,000 bonus offer back in 1972 and started three years at QB. Alan Cockrell started at quarterback for three seasons before being taken by the San Francisco Giants as a first baseball. The most notable baseball talent to do both jobs was Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies, who saw service at QB for the Vols in 1994 before opting for baseball full-time.
The opportunity to play both sports in college was another factor in UT’s favor as Kelly chose the Vols over offers from Alabama, Arizona State, North Carolina and Oregon. He visited Tennessee during the summer and returned for his official visit last weekend. He was set to make an announcement on his choice at the end of the week.
“Me and my family met last night and made the decision,” he said. “We didn’t see any reason for waiting. I called Coach Clawson last night and told him and I announced at a press conference at school today.”
Kelly got a preview of UT’s new offense from O.C. Dave Clawson on his official visit and felt it was a fit with his style and skills.
“The offense that he runs is kind of how Tennessee had it before,” he said. “That’s why he (Clawson) got hired because he had the same kind of offense they used to have (at UT). It’s like the west coast style. He told me he loves to throw the ball, but they’ve always had great running backs at Tennessee so they’re going to try and be very much balanced. I’m more of a pro style guy. I run about a 4.7. I’m not a speedster but I can kind of get away and make plays happen.”
On the diamond Kelly pitched when he didn’t play shortstop. He batted .320 as a junior with five home runs and has good power to the gaps. His arm strength allows him to be a power pitcher at the high school level but his future in baseball will be throwing out runners from the hole. That arm strength is apparent on the gridiron as well. A very accurate passer he hit the deep out or stretch the secondary over the top.
Ultimately, this two-sport star, who was hosted by B. J. Coleman, selected Tennessee because of the comfort level he felt on campus and the harmony he sensed among players on the team.
“When I went up there all the coaches and players and they just seemed a big family,” Kelly stated. “Leaving Florida and going out of state that’s a big thing, leaving your family. It just seemed like they made it another family up there. And it was just the best opportunity for me to play both sports. The coaches were talking about sharing me and everything like that. Coach Riley, the baseball coach, was excited to get me and Coach Fulmer assured me they’re going to do everything needed to make it happen.”