Clemson University head coach Dabo Swinney has kicked redshirt sophomore quarterback Chad Kelly, the nephew of former NFL great Jim Kelly, off the team for conduct issues, Swinney announced Monday. According to reports, Kelly has exhibited a pattern of behavior inconsistent with the aim of the Clemson program. The departure of star quarterback Tajh Boyd to the NFL had left Kelly battling senior Cole Stoudt and freshman Deshaun Watson for the starting job, but a heated exchange between Kelly and assistant coaches during the weekend’s spring game seemed to set the wheels in motion for his dismissal.
In a statement to the Media, Swinney said he decided to remove Kelly from Clemson for conduct that did not gel with the values of the program and has every hope that Kelly will learn from the incident and become a better man and player for it. Swinney added that he wished Kelly the best academically and athletically.
Kelly completed 10-of-18 passes for 113 yards, but was benched for the second half of the spring game after throwing two interceptions. He reportedly became incensed when coaches did not go for a fourth down and short and instigated an argument with coaches. Swinney told the South Carolina Post and Courier that Kelly’s behavior was unacceptable and he would not allow players to cross the line with coaches like that. Swinney said Kelly reacted in a way that a “leader” cannot react. Swinney added that Kelly’s benching was a decision based solely on his performance, and Stoudt was simply playing better that day.
An automobile accident Kelly was involved in near the Clemson campus also added to the recent firestorm. A car Kelly was riding in last Thursday reportedly backed into the car of a woman who claimed he became agitated and angry when the woman said she wanted to call police. She said he was very “disrespectful” and showed no remorse.
Kelly was a highly-recruited quarterback coming out of St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in New York, where he led his team to a state title as a junior and the title game as a senior. ESPN ranked Kelly as the nation’s No. 84 overall prospect and fourth best quarterback. Rivals.com listed Kelly as the nation’s No. 101 overall player and No. 4 quarterback prospect. In his senior year, Kelly passed for 3,050 yards and 27 touchdowns, and rushed for 991 yards and 14 touchdowns. In his junior year, Kelly passed for 2,159 yards and 24 touchdowns, while rushing for another 1,059 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Kelly redshirted in his freshman year in 2012, and suffered a torn ACL during the spring game in 2013. He played in five games last season as the third-string quarterback, completing 10-of-17 passes for 58 yards and also rushed for 117 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. In his first career action at Clemson against South Carolina State, Kelly completed 1-of-1 pass for six yards and rushed for three yards on two carries. His best appearance came against Syracuse on Oct. 5 when he completed 5-of-7 passes for 27 yards and rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat