Tennessee received good news on Thursday as they add some much needed depth to their running back core in John Kelly from Oak Park, Michigan. Kelly chose the Vols over Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State. Kelly was being recruited by the Spartans primarily as a safety, which appears to have hurt their chances. As for Michigan, Jim Harbaugh targeted Kelly as a must get recruit upon his arrival. Give Tennessee coaches credit for quickly getting Kelly on board despite overtures by Harbaugh and the Wolverines.
In Kelly, Tennessee is getting a 5'10" 195 lbs player with extreme versatility. He has the power to run inside the tackles and the speed and burst to bounce outside for and hit the edge with a fury. He's a home run threat that must be accounted for at all times. Heading into his senior season, many had Kelly pegged as a defensive back after he shined at corner at the Rivals Detroit camp over the summer, but Kelly's senior season changed those opinions quickly. This season Kelly rushed 124 times for 1,321 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, so putting him at returner isn't out of the question as soon as next season.
When asked why he chose Tennessee, Kelly talked about his relationship with the players and the staff in Knoxville. One player in particular helped land Kelly, "Kahlil McKenzie, that’s my guy! He’s recruited me more than my position coach." Great to see Kahlil continuing to reel in talent for Tennessee, showing that most players want to play with the best players in the country.
On the same day as Kelly's commitment, Vol Nation was hit with the news of Mike Bajakian leaving Tennessee. Will this have any effect on Kelly and his recruitment? Kelly said his relationship with Coach Gillespie, Coach Jones and Alvin Kamara are what sold him on Tennessee, not the offensive coordinator. He also added, "During my time there, it didn’t seem like there was any problems that you would see with a coaching staff, (Bajakian) just had to make the best decision for him and his family."
Kelly is still listed as an official visitor with Michigan State on January 30th. When asked about the visit, here's what Kelly had to say, "My recruitment process is over. I’m done with visits. I’m all Tennessee now." I like the sound of that!
Rivals ranks Kelly as a 3 star and 29th overall athlete. 247 has him as the 38th overall athlete and 5th overall player in Michigan. Scout has Kelly as the second ranked running back in Michigan.