Other than liars, you cannot find one soul who foresaw Chad Kelly's rise from a near pre-enrollment dismissal to starting quarterback to legitimate first-team All-SEC candidate. And without that rise from the ashes of poor decisions in the streets of Buffalo, Ole Miss would currently be, at best, swinging a sock full of nickels at Auburn for the right to go to the Birmingham Bowl.
Here's how good SWAG has been this year. As of this writing, he leads the SEC in passing yards (573 yards ahead of second place), completions, attempts, and passing touchdowns.
Adding to that list, he's second in completion percentage (65.65), which is only behind Will Grier, a noted user of POWER ENHANCERS, and trails only Brandon Allen in yards per attempt (a pretty healthy 8.93). Despite being a one-man show for seven games, he's also currently ranked 20th in the nation in passing efficiency, which is only behind Allen in the SEC.
So one might say he's been ALRIGHT. To illustrate how good he's been and how Ole Miss' passing offense has changed as the season has advanced, we're going to look at some pass charts and numbers based on those charts.
For this exercise, we're only going to look at conference games, and that's for a couple of reasons. One, I'd rather spend my free time doing other things, and two, I wanted to look at his numbers against better competition to see how much help his stats got from crushing non-conference opponents. Also, watching the Memphis game again would've sent me into a downward spiral that ended with me living in a remote area of a national forest. I don't need that in my life.
So with that in mind, let's wade into the charts and numbers.
For reference, the circles mark where passes were caught, not where the receiver was tackled. So a pass completed five yards from the line of scrimmage could've turned into a 15-yard gain (and it often did).
Early in the season, Ole Miss wasn't afraid to push the ball beyond 10 yards. In fact, 15 of Kelly's 33 pass attempts went beyond 10 yards. I bring that up now because as Ole Miss learned that the offensive line without Laremy Tunsil could not protect well at all (or provide a running game), those X's and O's started moving much closer to the line of scrimmage as the season progressed.
Here's a numbers breakdown of the various yardage ranges:
- LOS (behind): 3/6, 3 yards
- 0-10: 9/12, 158 yards, 1 TD
- 10-20: 2/7, 32 yards
- 20-30: 4/7, 148 yards, 2 TD
- 40+: 0/1
Much like against Alabama, Hugh Freeze was under the assumption his offensive line could give Kelly time to push the ball into the intermediate range. Things didn't go great in this game, as the Commodores forced Kelly into his worst game of the season, but the ability to get passes down the field was still there.
OH HOW THAT WAS ABOUT TO CHANGE.
- LOS: 7/9, 38 yards
- 0-10: 11/19, 161 yards
- 10-20: 3/8, 46 yards, 1 INT
- 20-30: 3/6, 76 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
And now you see those X's and O's creeping back to the line of scrimmage. Against Alabama and Vanderbilt, Kelly threw eight and six passes, respectively, over 20 yards. In this game, he threw two.
I don't think that was a part of the initial offensive plan, but it turned out that way due to a need to get the ball out of Kelly's hand before he was crushed by at least two defensive linemen. And in re-watching all of the offensive snaps (what a treat that was), throwing shorter and quicker actually worked, but the bad plays between the few good plays were REALLY BAD.
- LOS: 10/11, 65 yards, 1 TD
- 0-10: 11/20, 105 yards
- 10-20: 4/7, 67 yards, 1 INT
- 20-30: 1/1, 22 yards
- 40+: 0/1
After being forced into throwing short against Florida, the Ole Miss offensive braintrust stumbled into something that worked well to quite well. By putting an emphasis on throwing short (30 of Kelly's 41 passes were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage), the protection didn't have to be as good and because Kelly's arm is so strong, the ball could be in the hands of athletic, strong receivers very quickly.
This game also marked the return of Laremy Tunsil, which SOMEWHAT helped, but I mention it here because as we will see, there was yet another change in passing strategy to come.
- LOS: 11/14, 54 yards, 1 INT
- 0-10: 13/16, 112 yards, 1 TD
- 10-20: 1/7, 17 yards
- 20-30: 0/3, 1 INT
- 40+: 1/1, 58 yards, 1 TD
As mentioned above, we see a slight shift in passes beyond 10 yards. Some of that had to do with the volume of passes Kelly threw, but from watching the game again, the offensive line became more stable as the game progressed.
And you may have noticed throughout the season and in these charts, Ole Miss has put quite a bit of emphasis on staying away from throws over the middle. OUT ON THE EDGE IS OUR FRIEND, YOU GUYS.
- LOS: 9/14, 39 yards
- 0-10: 14/20, 124 yards, 1 INT
- 10-20: 8/10, 152 yards, 1 INT
- 20-30: 1/3, 21 yards, 1 TD
- 30-40: 1/3, 45 yards, 1 TD
- 40+: 0/1
The first thing you should notice is WHERE DID THE PRECIOUS BEHIND-THE-LINE BUBBLE SCREENS GO. Well, some of them still existed, Ole Miss just threw them slightly in front of the line of scrimmage.
Arkansas wasn't playing the tightest of coverages, but again, the Ole Miss offensive line provided the time to be a little more aggressive. It's also worth noting how right-handed Ole Miss was in this game. I count just eight passes to the left side of the field, which probably means nothing, but will certainly add to my paranoia that we're being too predictable at times.
- LOS: 1/2, 4 yards
- 0-10: 14/19, 148 yards, 2 TD
- 10-20: 6/7, 110 yards, 1 TD
- 20-30: 1/3, 27 yards
- 30-40: 2/2, 79 yards
- 40+: 0/1
So in six conference games, Chad Kelly has thrown up a stat line of 151/237 (63.7%), 1,910 yards, 12 TD, 8 INT. By the way, that comes out to 318.3 yards/game in conference play, which is, you know, ACCEPTABLE.
Total numbers breakdown:
- LOS: 41/56 (73.3%), 203 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- 0-10: 72/106 (67.9%), 807 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT
- 10-20: 24/46 (52.1%), 424 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
- 20-30: 10/23 (43.4%), 294 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT
- 30-40: 3/5 (60%), 124 yards, 1 TD
- 40+: 1/5 (20%), 58 yards, 1 TD
To no one's surprise at all, those numbers dip the further one moves down the field, but they do show how effective SWAG is within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. And finally (praise the Lord), to Hugh Freeze and Dan Werner's credit, they make it a priority to throw in the range where SWAG is at his best.
The percentage of SWAG's throws in the various yardage ranges:
- LOS: 23.6%
- 0-10: 44.7%
- 10-20: 19.4%
- 20-30: 9.7%
- 30-40: 2.1%
- 40+: 2.1%
Pretty good call IMO to have two-thirds of your quarterback's passes in his most efficient range. With the LSU and Mississippi State defenses to go, which are better than Arkansas', I suspect SWAG's pass charts will look more like the Auburn one. A return to throws behind the line of scrimmage, but still itching to push the ball in spots.