On the first play of B.J. Kelley's senior season at Central High School in Fresno, California, he went 80 yards for a touchdown.
He and his friend Brendon Bigelow, now a star tailback at Cal, led the Grizzlies to the second round of the CIF Central Section Playoffs. Kelley grabbed 51 passes for 1,224 yards and a school record 16 touchdowns. As the go-to receiver in a spread offense, he had scoring plays of 90, 80, 71, 70, 65, and 61 yards. In the sixth game of the year against Buchanan, he caught 8 passes for 213 yards and four tds.
Eyes on the prize: B.J. Kelley nabs a 22-yard pass against Arkansas State early in his redshirt freshmen season. A huge star in high school, Kelley's still looking for the opportunity, confidence and consistency to make a big impact as a Duck. (zimbio.com photo)
In his last season as a prep Kelley averaged an eye-catching 23.98 yards a reception, often turning simple slant or screen routes into big plays. At a combine that summer he ran a 4.34 40. ESPN rated him a 4-star player, the 26th best receiver in the country out of 250,000 high school seniors.
That December B.J. committed to Oregon, part of a speedy trio of promising receivers that included Devon Blackmon and Tacoi Sumler, both of whom have since transferred for lack of playing time.
B.J., a handsome kid with a ready smile, keeps sticking it out.
He redshirted in 2011, and last season he caught 6 passes for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns, the tds coming off a deflected ball against Cal and a nifty drag route along the end line in the Civil War, the play Jeff Maehl got so much mileage out of in his four years in the Webfoot receiving corps. In addition, he alertly recovered a fumbled punt in the Washington game, making four tackles on special teams during the year.
B.J. also runs track for the PAC-12 Champion Oregon men's team. In the 2013 season he ran a 10.84 100 and 21.3 200, and along with anchor De'Anthony Thomas, was part of the 4x100 relay team that ran a season-best 39.89 at the NCAA Championships, the fifth fastest time in school history.
Kelley's done some dedicated work in Jim Radcliffe's weight room, visibly changing his body since arriving as a lean freshman.
Driving through the finish line: the latest in a long line of two-sport stars at Oregon, B.J. has improved both his strength and speed with year-round training. (Paul Harvey photo)
At 6-2, 182, with long arms, big hands and sprinter's speed, Kelley is still an intriguing prospect with the potential to develop into a big-play receiver and vertical threat at the college level. So far the learning curve for him has been a big bender that just misses the black: he's still learning pass routes, formations and assignments, and needs the experience of making some big plays to gain the confidence to make more of them.
After a scrimmage this spring Head Coach Mark Helfrich told Rob Moseley, then of the Register-Guard:
B.J., when he's scrimmaging he always finds a way. Maybe (in the past he) would have run the wrong route and scored a touchdown, but he actually ran the right route and scored, so that's a step in the right direction.
Kelley capped off his progress with 3 catches in the Spring Game for 40 yards. The longest went for 22, and it was a particularly impressive moment in his development as he took a crushing hit on the play but still held on to the ball. He had to be helped off the field after the catch but returned to haul in two more.
The Ducks have a deep receiver rotation this year but no one, other than senior Josh Huff, has shown the ability to stretch the defense consistently. There's an opportunity for #23 to step out of the crowded sideline huddle and make a place for himself, but he'll need to finish some plays and lay down some blocks when fall camp begins in two weeks.
Perhaps more than any other receiver on the roster, Kelley stands to benefit from the addition of Matt Lubick to the Oregon coaching staff. He needs refinement on his technique and a better understanding of what's necessary to harness his considerable talent at the next level. Tall and fast, Kelley has the raw material and takes the ball into his hands with a natural ease.
Here's a look at his high school tape, with scouting notes:
Play 1 Gathers the ball over his shoulder into his hands. Beats the defender badly on a simple go route.
Play 2 Bubble screen, stop and go, shed one tackle, breaks into the clear, 80-yard touchdown.
Play 3 Hitch. Takes the ball smoothly, breaks a tackle, gone.
Play 4 Flea flicker. Kelley is deep and three steps clear of the safety. Makes a nice catch just inside the end line and goal post. Good concentration and footwork.
Play 5 Quick screen at the opponent's 20. Kelley takes the ball along the left sideline and trusts his speed, outrunning 4 defenders to the goal line. Drives right through. An explosive weapon with good size and athletic ability. A big-play receiver with Marqise Lee/Samie Parker potential. Big hands, long legs and arms. Takes the ball in naturally and softly.
Play 6 Alertly picks up a deflection just off the turf, a nimble and athletic play. Very alert with a quick adjustment to the ball. Dashes for the touchdown like it was drawn up that way.
Play 7 Inside route in traffic, and he's not bothered by it. Makes a very smooth transition from receiving the ball to becoming an explosive running back, accelerating with a simple slant pattern and turning it into a 60-yard touchdown. Dangerous.
If he completes his adjustment to college football successfully, he has the potential to be the big-play deep threat Oregon hasn't had since Parker. Particularly love the way he is thinking big play even on possession routes, accelerating full speed into a thinned-out secondary like the field belongs to him. Has to rediscover the confidence that made him a great high school player.
From Mike Wines of Oregon Duck Soup, Kelley's TD grab in the Civil War:
We need all of our receivers to step up big time this year. The better they block downfield and the better they can get open from defenders determines how often they'll get the ball. Even if the play isn't called for them, they'll get the ball if they're open and the other guy isn't. With a shortage of experienced running backs, receivers are going to have to pick up the load.
Just wanted to say thanks for all your hard work, I'm new to theduckstophere but I'm a huge fan so far and plan to stick around for a long time. You keep putting out some great articles with excellent insight.
Hey Dale, you got picked up by Bleacher Report again today. Very nice, that should bring you some readership.
As Oregon moves up into the rarified air of those who have a wealth of talent at many positions, there will always be the risk of transfers. Oregon will have to learn how to balance the hunger for playing time with buy in to the system for those who want to be a part of it.
When you think of the Ducks losing the fastest receiver in (high school) football, Tacoi Sumler as well as big play wideout Devon Blackmon, it's truly amazing that they have the plethora of receiver talent they currently claim. I was looking for great things from that trio, and now that falls squarely on the not-so-narrow any longer shoulders of BJ. I hope he does have a huge breakout year.
It seems to me and I am probably one of the least knowledgeable posters that Oregon has a number of potential fine receivers but how do you keep them all happy? Just off the top of my head there is Joss Huff, Bralon Addison, BJ Kelley, Dwayne Standford plus the others looking to catch the ball like DAT, Byron Marshall, Colt Lyerla, Pharoah Brown etc. The end result in some cases are people transferring.
I (we) have been waiting for BJ to arrive. I thought last year would have been a breakout year for him but he seemed to get lost in the deep end of the pool. I was surprised to read......."he's still learning pass routes, formations and assignments......" One would think he should have the playbook down by now or am I expecting too much?
His body has been transformed by Coach Rad into the optimum playing condition. Time to step it up BJ. Make a little noise on the sideline. Get yourself into the game and then do something when you get there. I still have huge aspirations for this remarkable talent. He has all the tools to be a big time play maker at this level and beyond.
The Ducks do have one problem and that would be the myriad of talent already playing and the ones waiting in the wings. Spreading the ball around to all the potentially great players is a problem other teams would love to have. Our bench in the last decade has turned into a cornucopia of athleticism all attributed to the great coaching, conditioning and the recruiting of raw talent.
You have what it takes BJ, now go out there and get it done.
Go Ducks WTD
@Duckbill You'd like to see a player advance every year and take a big leap from redshirt freshman to sophomore. Kelley's strong work in track, in conditioning and in practice should come together for him this season, although as you suggested, all of the receivers are going to be challenged by the competition between them and the presence of these two dynamic freshman. Juwaan Williams too has a lot of potential.
@duckified Plus, Mariota spreads the ball around very well, so the opportunity is there for all of them.
@Stevoduck Stevo, thank you and welcome.
@goducks58 Be very interesting to see how receiver coach Matt Lubick rotates his players and how Marcus Mariota distributes the touches. Mariota has the vision and unselfishness to get a lot of players involved.
The Duck receiver corps should be as effective as they are deep and promising. I can't wait to see the air attack they unveil in those first three games. I think lots of people are rooting for the wideouts, particularly Kelley, Josh Huff, Bralon Addison and Keanon Lowe.
@SonomaDuck SD, for the "least knowledgeable" poster on here you make a great point--distributing the touches will be an issue, because there is only one football, 80-85 plays a game.
The competition are wide receiver will be one of the most interesting stories of fall camp. Add to the names you listed some talented freshmen like Darren Carrington, Devon Allen and Juwaan Williams. Each of these three is capable or rising to a role like Josh Huff, DAT, or Bralon Addison played as freshmen.
A transfer or two is inevitable. Everybody wants to play. Typically Oregon plays at a fast pace and plays a lot of people--figure Huff, Addison, DAT and Lowe for the majority of the catches. Lyerla certainly ought to get a chunk of the.
Everybody tends to discount Daryle Hawkins, a 6-4 senior with a good athletic background who has done everything asked of him in the program, at different times playing quarterback, halfback and now receivers.
@hoboduck I feel as you do, that Kelley is physically ready to be a big contributor in the offense, and he has all the tools to do so. Question is if he advances in his productivity, awareness and consistency. I bet he will. I'm expecting a solid year from him, maybe 20-30 catches, 300-500 yards.
just goes to show,, you can be all that in high school,, but as you go up levels the jumps really seperate out the pure athliticism versus athleticism plus skills,, like route running, and the savvy intelligence of figuring out how to get open against equally and or better defenders. The jumps are exponential, the NFL is another 10X level of difficulty harder. Oregon has been spectacular at recruiting running backs for example,, but recivers has been a challenge for the CK regime, huff not with standing, and maehl, and a few others,, but nothing that says first round nfl talent,, ot even second or third. Reciver,, not tight end,, thats a different position. And yes,, the guys who do play are foremost great college spread blockers,, that seems to be enough for the recent ducks, But it has limited to a degree what they could do as an offense by taking the top off of defenses,, and drawing coverage defenders away, Maybe lubick will recruit some guys to do just that. Something to hope for and to watch for.
Bleacher Report is my #2 go to source.
THE DUCK STOPS HERE IS #1
What about dungy, he seems to be putting in the time and does an excellent job blocking? Do you think will see more of him this year?
The consensus (if not just a fickle, passing sentiment among journalists grubbing for copy in the off-season) is that Oregon will shift from 57-43 run to 57-43 pass under MH. If so, I'd expect Mariota to develop a special relationship with a few key receivers, and receiving stats to go up. We've enjoyed some phenomenal runners in the past few years, but we may be in line for a show here, a season where Oregon goes vertical in a big way.
That scenario, consensus or not, rings probable to me because we've never had such a natural, accurate talent at QB. Chip used the running game to free up the passing lanes. Helfrich may indeed use the downfield arc to open up the running lanes, and I cannot imagine how any team could hope to stop DAT or Bennett or Tyner with three on the line and five deep. Those three LB in the middle would have to contend with hypersonic runners IN SPACE, and AT SPEED... I am sooo looking forward to this season!
@nyduck Thanks nyd. Watch out for the receivers the Ducks recruited this round, the incoming freshmen this fall. Darren Carrington is the son of a former NFL player, a dynamic athlete still growing into his body. Devon Allen is a state champion hurdler with speed and game-breaking ability. Juwaan Williams, from Tucker, Georgia is another of those versatile dual-threat quarterbacks like Addison and Huff. He played in two high school all-star games and led his team to a 10-3 record in 5A Peach State football.
All three are six feet tall and extremely athletic, capable of making the leaps you talked about.
@SonomaDuck @Dale Newton Thank you SD. I finally found it. Feel very fortunate to have that story linked by Duck Sports Now, Bleacher Report, Addicted to Quack, and the espn.com PAC-12 blog. Pageviews for the day are at a blog record of 7,697, about what the Huffington Post does when the grapefruits are cut in half on the east coast.
Very grateful to the readers here for their support and comments.
At 6-1, 183, junior Eric Dungy is not the most gifted of Oregon's receivers, but he's grown up around the game and has good hands. He's impressed me in his brief appearances and in spring games, making catches in traffic, sticking his nose in there blocking. He seems to be a reliable target and a hard worker, although not a breakaway threat.
Dungy will see some spot play and work on special teams. He's been persistent as a college player and never complained, reportedly a hard worker in practice. It takes some role players to build a successful football team. Sometimes guys like that just keep working and exceed everyone's expectations.
And GD is right. Recruiting 40 times are notoriously inaccurate. Everybody runs a 4.5 40 or better on the intro to their recruiting highlight video. For skill position players I always check them against their track times in the 100, 200 and hurdles--those are typically electronically timed and tend to be more accurate. A kid with a listed 4.4 or 4.5 40, if legit, will run the 100 in 10.6, 10.7 or better.
True 4.31s are extremely rare. Bo Jackson has the NFL combine record at 4.18. Beastly.
@Duckbill @Dale Newton @SonomaDuck Ha! Yeah at 105 that's pretty light... But seriously? Chance isn't that speedy? So BJ Kelley runs a 4.43 and Chance Allen runs a 4.5 in the 40 and he's not that speedy? 7/100 of a second is a very slim margin IMHO. Of course, those 40 times are always suspect... Dior Mathis was shown on one recruiting site at 4.31 and on another as 4.5....
@SonomaDuck @Dale Newton Allen, who wears #20, did redshirt last season. He's from the same home town as Bralon Addison. He's 6-2, 105, a tall, smooth receiver who was also the second leading scorer on the basketball team his junior and senior years of high school.
We'll profile him later in the week. Here's a recruiting profile I wrote on him when he became a Duck:
@zduckfan Oooo...that "fickle sentiments among journalists grubbing for copy" line, a nice turn of phrase, would cut a little if I were an actual journalist :). The question of the mix is interesting, and I have a feeling Helfrich will be a little more flexible than Kelly in-game. Good post, Z. Scott Frost said something similar this spring about Mariota in an interview with Ivan Maisel.
@nyduck @Duckbill @Dale Newton @zduckfan My theory is that you should pass more on running teams and run more on passing teams. Their defenses practice on their own team's strength more, and less on what they don't do well, therefore, they are less trained in the weak aspects of their own team and can be exploited in that weakness by the other team. For well balanced teams, you bring everybody up to the line of scrimmage, and have them move around, until the ball snap, then immediately, they fall back into their positions, so the other team won't know what you're doing. You would have to be playing man to man pass coverage for this to work. Just a thought.
@Dale Newton @Duckbill @zduckfan the duck passing game has been excelent within the CK scheme, The entire offense was often just so efficient that whether run or pass it was big play after big play and fast. Thats why they scored so fast and so often. The real issue if having great recievers is in the big games, where you want a few guys that cannot be neutralized. Guys that can change a game, with speed, with great route running, with yac,, and that the defense either has to double team one or more,, and cant just neutralize easily. Those are you future nfl impact players, The ducks have not had so many of them, Maybe some new guys are going to become that, But the ducks havent had that, and again it may also be that the duck schemes have not really enabled that type of reciver to emerge too. Hopefully the new ducks under nh and lubick will try toadd in that dimesion if it is possible within what has been a great scheme, You dont want to do tat at the expense of taking away from the other aspects of that offensive sheme, since it has been near the best in all of college football for years now., delicate issue.
Frost got the receivers to do exactly what was expected of them in Kelly's run-first attack, but I do think Matt Lubick will take this group and the passing game to a new level.
@Duckbill @Dale Newton @zduckfani have been pondering that same question myself,, the duck receivers have not been at the same level as the run game. I am wondering if this isn't mostly on an ultra focus on the run game first and predominantly under ck. I think so, and i am not arguing with the great results. But the ducks were able to throw when they wanted to, even in the auburn game, they were able to, but CK really wanted to run, and would often throw only to take pressure off the line for running it, He would often go back and bang his head against the wall running after a few throws, convinced enough was done to get back to what he absolutely wanted to do. But the ducks could have won with their passing game in those same big losses, if he wasn't so stubbornly mindset on running and showing himself and everyone that he and the ducks could 'dictate' the run with an iron will. Thats where his Achilles heal was.
@zduckfan Scott Frost is famous for having said what's often been repeated, "If you don't block, you don't get the rock."
Downfield blocking is a huge part of Oregon's success, and the powerful example of that was Kenjon Barner's 321-yard performance against USC. Time and again he gets 10-15 yards before he is even touched, picking his way through almost perfect blocking.
Correct me if I'm wrong (I often am), but doesn't this offense depend heavily on the ability to pass block extremely well? It would seem to me that if a star player with scads of speed commits to Oregon but doesn't excel at blocking, they won't get in the game.
Oregon's YAC and even the running game depends heavily on planned blocks downfield. I don't have a single anecdote to offer, but I'm sure there have been talented kids who show up thinking all they have to do at Uber Oregon is run like the wind and they'll start every game, lead the league in yards and scores, and trot off to the NFL in three years holding a bag of money. Wouldn't it be easy for a young man to think that, given the Duck's reputation for speed?