The Ole Miss Rebels will have at least one of their star NFL draft-eligible players return, as junior quarterback Chad Kelly announced he'll be back in 2016, according to the Buffalo News.
Kelly, the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, returned on the belief the Rebels can contend in the SEC next season:
After serious discussion with my family and Coach [Hugh] Freeze, I wanted my friends and fans to know that I’ll be staying at Ole Miss for my senior year. I look forward to completing my degree and graduating from Ole Miss. We’ve lost a lot of starters, but we’re still deep in talent, and I’m excited to get back to work with Coach Freeze, Coach Werner and the rest of the team.
Kelly led Ole Miss to its first 10-win season since 2003, which included its first Sugar Bowl victory in 46 years and a Week 3 win over No. 2 Alabama.
Kelly led the SEC with 4,042 passing yards and 31 touchdowns in just his first season in the nation’s toughest conference.
Behind his offensive leadership, the Rebels nearly reached the SEC title game before a miraculous 4th-and-25 conversion cost them in a 53-52 overtime defeat to Arkansas that handed them their second conference loss and conceded the division to Alabama.
The drive to build up his heroics and usurp the conference heavyweights under the guidance of Freeze played a major factor in his return:
As a Kelly, I’ve been fortunate to grow up with a tight knit family. Coach Freeze and everyone here at Ole Miss have become a part of my family. We have the best students, the best staff, and just as importantly, the best fans in the country. Our goal this year is to win the SEC West and to compete for a National Championship.
However, Kelly and Co. must do so without three projected first-round picks, as Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell have all declared.
While those aspirations seem lofty, the Rebels do have the nation’s No. 7 incoming recruiting class, per 247Sports, which should provide immediate depth—albeit depth that's young and inexperienced.
Kelly initially enrolled at Clemson in 2012 and was thought to be the heir to Tajh Boyd. But he was dismissed for "conduct detrimental to the program" after two seasons. He signed with East Mississippi Community College in 2014, then enrolled at Ole Miss last year.
His off-the-field antics didn’t spill over in Oxford, though, and he appears more focused on football. If Kelly can find other reliable weapons on offense, the Rebels could be in store for another great year.