BATON ROUGE, La. — When he popped on the tape to start evaluating the Arkansas offense, LSU defensive end Frank Herron couldn’t believe his eyes.
“I was just watching him in there and it was amazing,” Herron said. “It’s like, they were running draws with a 6-foot-7 [quarterback]. Like, you’re not going to see this. You know what I’m saying? Jalen Hurts, he’s not that tall. But this dude’s 6-foot-7. You don’t see that. And he’s like 270? We were watching it in there on the film. That stuff’s crazy.”
The quarterback in question? Arkansas freshman Cole Kelley.
At 6-7 and 268 pounds, Kelley is massive by any standard. But when you factor in his willingness to run, he becomes even more unique. Despite his stature, Kelley has averaged more than 10 carries per game in Arkansas’ last four games.
He’s not the most successful or efficient runner in the SEC. Because of all the sacks he’s taken, he’s averaging only 1.42 yards per carry. But don’t take that to mean he’s easy to bring down. He’s not.
“That’s some tall dude,” LSU defensive tackle Greg Gilmore said. “I think I saw the whole team on his back and he’s still running. They ran like 10 quarterback draws in the first half against Bama. I was like ‘Damn, he’s big.’ ”
Herron said he doesn’t know the proper way to bring down a quarterback like Kelley. If you hit him low, you leave him a clear throwing lane. If you hit him high, he can “take you on a ride.” Realistically, you probably need two defenders to bring down Kelley, and even that might not be enough.
Still, there’s one LSU defender looking forward to facing Kelley: linebacker Devin White. White said he thinks it’ll be easier to tackle Kelley because he’s such a big target. And if there’s anyone on the Tigers defense you should trust about recognizing Kelley’s size, it’s White.
When he was in high school, White took a recruiting visit to an Arkansas game. On that trip, he met Kelley. Looking at the 6-7 kid, White didn’t have a clue he was standing next to a quarterback. But Kelley came up and introduced himself, revealing he’s from Louisiana. Lafayette, specifically.
Naturally, this launched White into sales-pitch mode.
“He told me, ‘Hey bro, I’m from Louisiana,’ so I kind of talked to him,” White said. “But I hope we get to play him — Louisiana against Louisiana.”
It’s hard to have hard feelings about a Louisiana boy like Kelley leaving his home state for Arkansas. A former 3-star prospect, Kelley didn’t receive a scholarship offer from LSU. Arkansas and Kentucky were the only SEC schools that pursued Kelley. He chose Arkansas. Now, after taking a redshirt, Kelley might be Arkansas’ starting quarterback against the biggest school in his home state.
Even White appreciates that.
“You root for guys like that, just not when they’re playing your team,” White said. “You always want to see Louisiana guys playing well … You do what’s best for you, so I can’t be mad at a guy for not coming. But when you play LSU, you gotta get everything. We want to play you hard and make you wish you were at LSU with us.”
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