FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Cole Kelley ended last season on suspension from the Arkansas football program after his arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
After an offseason that included a coaching change and an effort to regain the trust of his teammates, Kelley will begin this year under center for the Razorbacks.
First-year Arkansas coach Chad Morris announced the decision to start Kelley in this weekend’s opener against Eastern Illinois on Monday. The decision puts what could be a temporary end to what had been a competition between Kelley and junior Ty Storey from the moment Morris was hired after last season.
Morris said Storey will also play on Saturday and he made it clear the position would continue to be up for grabs throughout the season.
“We just felt like going into this first game that Cole had earned that right to start,” Morris said. “That doesn’t say that he’s the finisher, but he’s the starter.”
The 6-foot-7, 258-pound Kelley started four games last season as a freshman in place of an injured Austin Allen. He completed 57.6 percent of his passes and threw eight touchdowns and four interceptions, also rushing for a pair of touchdowns, while Story had seen only limited action in his two years with the Razorbacks.
However, Kelley was arrested last November and suspended for the final game of last season by then-coach Bret Bielema.
It was a humiliating and humbling moment for the Louisiana native, who Bielema forced to come to the Arkansas football complex the morning following his arrest to face his teammates.
“When people come to college that first year, sometimes those demons come out of them,” Kelley said earlier this month. “But I’ve gotten those out of me, and I don’t really do that at all anymore.”
For his part, Morris said the coaching change was “an opportunity to start over” for Kelley after his arrest. The coach also said he met with each quarterback individually after informing them of the decision to start Kelley on Sunday night, and that he reminded them the starter “is the face of the university.”
Morris also didn’t rule out the possibility of one of a group of several freshmen quarterbacks seeing playing time this season.
“Everything counts,” Morris said.