Kelly Ready For Larger Role In Clemson Offense

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Two years ago Aaron Kelly was a pleasant surprise as a contributor to Clemson's wide receiving corps. Now, suddenly, Kelly finds himself the old man of the group.

A redshirt junior entering his fourth year as a Tiger, Kelly has more experience than any of the other returning Clemson wideouts. Long, lean and athletic, the Marietta, Ga. native is looked upon as the most reasonable candidate to replace the departed Chansi Stuckey as the Tigers go-to receiver.

While the first snap of 2007 has yet to be made, Kelly seems at least mentally ready to fill that role, as well as that of a leader.

"Now I'm one of the players who has been her the longest, played the most and has the most experience," he said during a break in Sunday's Fan Appreciation Day activities at Clemson.

"I'm trying to give that to some of the younger players now...I know what to expect now. As a freshman you get on the field and just kind of react to whatever's going on and you don't really know what's going on. Or someone will tell you if you're not really sure.

"Now it's just going out and playing. You have the routine down and know what to expect."

But to go forward, Kelly had to take a quick glance back. And he wasn't particularly pleased with what he saw.

Kelly's catches (30) in 2006 were down from the 47 he turned in the previous season. His yardage (575-355) took a significant dip, too. His touchdown total did rise, from two to three, and his average yards per reception remained very close (12.2-11.8).

He closed the season with a strong outing against Kentucky in the Music City Bowl, finishing the loss with six catches for 66 yards and a score. But it wasn't enough to remove the bitter taste from Kelly's mouth.

"Last year was kind of disappointing," he said. "You set goals for yourself and you want to accomplish (them), and a lot of those goals weren't reached last year. So I kind of went home, refocused, and hopefully this year will be a better year."

Kelly's personal season mirrored that of his team.

The Tigers of 2007 had many expectations, especially after the tremendous start to the season had Clemson at 7-1 following a national television dismantling of Georgia Tech. But, as everyone knows, the season went south beginning the next week.

The passing game never got untracked in the season's final month-plus, and the Tigers finished a disappointing 8-5.

But, as with every new season hope springs eternal. And even though Kelly will be working with his third different starting quarterback in as many years, he's confident his year - and that of his team - will be much better in 2007.

"We didn't finish strongly enough," Kelly said. "That's what we want to improve on. We want to be consistent the whole year.

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