Pulaski Academy head coach Kevin Kelley is the most polarizing high school football coach in the state of Arkansas. There’s no denying his teams, which almost always go for it on fourth down and execute onside kickoffs, have formed a program that ranks with the likes of Greenwood as the state’s most consistently successful in the 21st century.
His Bruins, out of Little Rock, frequently win state championships. And just look at the program’s year-by-year records:
But Kelley has also drawn criticism over the years for his brazen confidence and lack of remorse about blowing teams out. Whether it’s defending his unorthodox methods, or defending the reputation of his school against those who think Pulaski Academy is a bastion for entitled elitists, Kelley has never been afraid to speak his mind.
And, for the first time, his opinions are making waves at the college level.
Kevin Kelley, who has coached multiple Razorbacks such as Hunter Henry, recently weighed in on what Chad Morris, Joe Craddock, John Chavis and the rest of the Razorback football coaches should do to reverse course on the Hogs’ descent into SEC laughingstock status before a close loss to Texas A&M in Week 5..
Days before that, in the wake of Arkansas’ San Jose State debacle, Kelley Tweeted out the following:
“Whatever @RazorbackFB is doing in preparation, they simply need to change it. It’s not working so try something else. Whatever it is these players are not getting it. There is a talent discrepancy in this game TOWARDS Arkansas so that is not the answer in this game.”
“Tough bc I don’t want to be critical of the coaching. Coach M is a great guy. That said, quickly, is add some misdirection screens and look for easy big plays. Make crossing routes with digs behind a staple. No more club dub. The incentive is winning & that feeling of the crowd being happy with & for us. No more celebrations after big plays. Expect them. Evaluate what we have done well for the first games and do way way more of that. Quit running on 1st [down]. Do more play action. [Numbers] show it’s way more efficient.”
“Throw the ball to backs out of the backfield more and also less stationary routes like stops & curls. They are way harder to get yards after catch.”
Later, in an interview on the Buzz 103.7, Kelley explained why running such routes are vital to his program — and why they could prove to be a big game changer for the Hogs. “The number one thing hardest to do in football is open field tackle. So get the ball to your guys out in the open field. Even if you don’t have play makers, I’ll tell you the hardest thing to do in the world is open field tackle. So get it out to anybody in the open field,” he said.
Kelley continued: “Quit throwing it 55 yards down the field, because that’s a low-percentage play. Even if you have the best in the world, if you have Tom Brady and Josh Gordon, it’s a low-percentage play and we’re doing it way too much, in my opinion. The reward/risk thing doesn’t equal out there, so don’t do that because then you’re putting yourself at 2nd down and 10, or you’re putting yourself at 3rd and 10. None of that works.”
Kelley’s diagnosis dovetails with what Clint Stoerner said about Morris and the program. Read more in “Why Clint Stoerner Calls Those Who Want Chad Morris Fired” here:
Kevin Kelley on how to improve Hogs’ defense
“I want to see them just change dramatically. I mean, I want to see him put the things that go with it together. If you’re going to blitz tight coverage, if you’re going to play off, then let’s get some nickel defense out there and take some of those guys out that aren’t doing a good job and make sure we were more personnel appropriate for the situation.”
On Nick Starkel (who threw 5 ints vs SJSU) and improving the quarterback play
“The coach’s job is to get him to make the good decisions. And you’ve got to put him in the situations in practice or you’ve got to find the button it is, or you’ve got to find the button in the film room that makes the light bulb come on and go, ‘Oh dang. If I don’t make a good decision, here’s what happens.’
“But now you’ve got to teach them what those good decisions are. And I’m not sure that Nick Starkel has learned that. I have no doubt the coaches know what the decision needs to be.”
I think that coaching is way more teaching than anybody realizes. And obviously, they either haven’t taught Starkel or they can’t get him to do it, and he’s not learning. Well, either way, that’s bad coaching, because the ball’s got to be out of his hand.”
On who should take the blame for this mess
“The head coach has to take the blame. That’s our job and we are responsible. That said, I don’t think the answer is changing Coach Morris right now. But when on the inside it is hard to see what needs to be done. Have to step out and take a look back in to tell.
Here, Kelley takes the opposite stance as Bruce James, a former Hog All-American who’s been a local analyst for decades:
If you’re unfamiliar with Kevin Kelley’s revolutionary tactics, and why living in Arkansas led their development, check out this feature from Bleacher Report: