ATHENS – When Kirby Smart watches Chad Kelly, it sparks nightmares. A nightmare named Johnny Manziel.
But throw in some Dan Marino too.
Kelly is the Ole Miss quarterback who torched Smart’s defense at Alabama last year, and Smart, having moved over to coach Georgia, has to face him again. Which he’s not too thrilled about.
“I really think in my time in the SEC, even the embarrassment that Johnny Manziel put me through, and put us through at the University of Alabama, this guy’s got it all,” Smart said of Kelly after Tuesday’s practice. “Because he can make all the throws in the pocket. He can run the ball, and he’s got moxie. He really does. He’s got a moxie about him that he’ll stand back there and take a shot, and he’s not afraid.”
Smart knows from more than just film: Last year Kelly threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for 21 yards and a touchdown, and Ole Miss won 48-43.
It was reminiscent of the second time Smart faced Manziel: It took a big offensive performance for Alabama to beat Manziel’s Texas A&M team, 49-42. But the year before the Aggies won behind Manziel. In those two games, Manziel combined to throw for 717 yards and seven touchdowns, and rushed for 190 yards.
So a reporter came back to that point: Are you saying Chad Kelly is better than Johnny Manziel?
“I’m saying Chad Kelly does it all. He does it all,” Smart said. “When I compare it to all the things he did. I still have nightmares about Johnny Manziel, trust me. The guy torched us. He had good tools around him, OK, and he was an unbelievable athlete. This guy is different.
“I’m not saying he’s better or worse. I’m making a comparison, but I don’t want to make that comparison to slight Johnny Manziel, I’m only saying they’re both great quarterbacks. He’s just different.”
Kelly leads the SEC in passing touchdowns, with 10, and is second in passing yards per game, with 317.7 per game. (Missouri’s Drew Lock, who Georgia just faced, is first in passing yards.)
Last year Kelly lead the SEC in passing yards (310.9 per game), touchdown passes (31) and efficiency rating (155.86). The quarterback who was second or third in those categories is now the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott at Mississippi State.
Then there’s the run game component: Kelly rushed for 500 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns last year. He hasn’t rushed as much this year – he’s only averaging 23.7 rushing yards per game – but Smart thinks that’s because the Ole Miss staff likes how his passing has improved.
“He can stand in the pocket, and you feel like the guy’s Dan Marino at times, firing it through there, and the next thing you know he’s out there running around,” Smart said. “The next thing you know he’s making a back-shoulder throw, and winging it, taking off running down the middle. He really does it all. I think they’ve tried to not it run that much by design runs because they don’t have to, because he can throw it so good. But yeah I’m saying he’s really talented.”