There are a few “must watch” teams in college football. Down in the non-scholarship FCS ranks, Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. may have joined that group, after hiring Kevin Kelley of Pulaski Academy in Arkansas.
For the unfamiliar, Kelley is the highly successful high school coach known for his super aggressive, almost game-breaking strategies. He virtually never punts, he dials up a ton of onside kicks, and his offense is built around the big play. Kelley, who has captured nine state championships since 2003, and six in the last eight years, hasn’t been shy about his desire to get a college job.
When he was floated for the Kansas Jayhawks opening earlier this spring by The Athletic’s Andy Staples, he said he’d handle the Big 12 the same way he does the Arkansas high school ranks. If anything, he’d be more dedicated to his analytics-based, high variance style with the kind of talent deficit that KU faces against the likes of Oklahoma and Texas. One has to imagine that is what he’ll be doing with Presbyterian, which has been at the FCS level since 2011, and is moving to the Pioneer League this year.
Kevin Kelley reportedly informed Pulaski Academy families of his decision today. This is a bold swing for any college football program, and the college football world is pumped.
Pulaski Academy coach Kevin Kelley is leaving. He will be the head coach at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, according to an email sent to school parents.
— Kyle Deckelbaum (@KATVKyle) May 6, 2021
Presbyterian College just hired the "never punt" high school football coach.
PC recently moved to non-scholarship FCS football and joins the Pioneer League this year.
THE BLUE HOSE NEVER PUNTS, WILL NEVER SURRENDER https://t.co/HjPLLOv01R
— Daren Stoltzfus WESH (@DarenStoltzfus) May 6, 2021
OH BABY https://t.co/oVHnP4REFs
— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) May 6, 2021
The Never-Punt coach comes to Division I!!!!! https://t.co/ovLaVnIvyx
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) May 6, 2021
🚨🚨🚨THE COACH WHO NEVER PUNTS AND DOES AN ONSIDE KICK AFTER EVERY TOUCHDOWN IS NOW A DIVISION I FOOTBALL COACH 🚨🚨🚨 https://t.co/glg9yh5riu
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) May 6, 2021
Football has moved in a more analytics-based, aggressive direction in recent years. However, no one coaches the game the way Kevin Kelley does. He even has the ear of Bill Belichick, with whom he speaks regularly.
“Coach Kelley is probably the top high school coach in the country,” Belichick said in December. “I’ve followed him. He’s a little unconventional, but he’s had great success, and he’s had a lot of players come through there. . . . I have great respect for coach Kelley and the program he runs, and some of the creative things that he does.”
He’s fearless, and is about to conduct one of the great football experiments we’ve seen in a long time. If he finds success in a pretty competitive Pioneer League, we can only hope that an FBS program is as bold as Presbyterian is being, a few years from now.