NORMAN, Okla. – No player in soccer history has faced the kind of dilemma facing Caleb Kelly from Oklahoma this week.
Kelly plays Saturday against top LSU in the peach cup? Or did he sit in the College Football Playoff semifinal and, winning or losing, returned in 2020 for his senior year?
“It’s difficult,” Kelly said. “It’s unclear.”
It’s an issue.
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“There are discussions going on right now,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “There are obviously a lot of different ways to look at it. This scenario with him is a little unique at the moment.”
Kelly, a senior from Fresno, California, returns from a knee injury suffered on spring practice April 4. The NCAA’s new red earrings rule puts Kelly in a serious decision-making process: If he plays Saturday, it will be his fourth game of the year, meaning he can return for his senior year in 2020 – if Peach drinks is the final game of the season, that is.
Oklahoma is a 14-point underdog, but the conservatives have every intention of winning the game. If Kelly and Oklahoma win, then they will have to decide again whether to give up a full season playing in the national championship on January 13 against the Ohio State-Clemson winner at the Fiesta Bowl. Or, he could sit down the most important game of his life and come back for a final season.
The Sooners may need Kelly over LSU to win a national title – especially with starting safety Delarrin Turner-Yell (injury) and defender Ronnie Perkins (suspension) out. Kelly, a five-star guest in the class of 2016, had three major productive seasons before being injured in the spring. He has been very good in all three of his games this season and has been in the running of all three games, including the final match against Baylor in the Big 12 championship.
Kelly has not been interviewed since the Sooners defeated TCU on November 23, but admitted after the game that he faced some tough choices. It was not yet known at the time if OU was at the Playoff, but it was still dealing with hypothetical questions about a possible riddle of the five games.
“Hmm, I don’t know. I can’t tell you,” Kelly said. “I go weekly. Missing national championship. … I don’t know. I’ve been here four years and it’s been a game away from the last two. This is definitely something I would like to play in. But also a game for the rest of my career. ? A real tough decision. “
Kelly was medically clean for contact shortly after the middle ages. He has been practicing since early November, but Riley has expressed a distinct difference between being able to play and being able to play a game. Kelly made his comeback almost a week earlier when senior DaShaun White was called to a shootout at the November 16 game in Baylor. But the call was overturned and White allowed him to stay in the game.
If Kelly had played in the Sooners’ epic return to Waco, his mind could now be much clearer on how to approach Saturday’s showdown in Atlanta.
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One thing is for sure: Kelly’s determination to return to the field was nothing short of remarkable. Seven months and a week after the ACL ruptured, he returned to the linebacker for Linebacker’s body earlier.
“He came and threw us around for us,” said midfielder and captain Kenneth Murray. “A man who is obviously a central part of us in defense, given what he’s gone through in this program. He was able to come in and communicate and do the checks with me. It’s great for us and will continue to be great for us. He’s a guy who is my brother and one of my best friends. I’m so happy to have him back. “
“I was excited to find him out there,” said defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. “I think it helps us. I think it plays fast. You see some physicality in practice. This is obviously going to translate into play. And it did good when it was there. No. 1, you don’t notice the problems. No. 2, we talked about it, the more kids we rotate, the better we will be. So I’m excited to have him out there. And a player that the other players respect. “
During the injury, Kelly expanded her role with the OU student media team, attending press conferences as a member of the press, cameras and microphones, asking questions and learning about all aspects of television and television production. But he also never left the practice room or movie theater. Younger players have taken on the so-called “trainer Kelly”, as it has been in their ear for everything from practical habits to film studies to gameday shows.
“The return of Caleb Kelly was good for me personally,” said White, who joined Kelly’s weak role after being injured. “Caleb and I did the good of each other, since, you know, the Grinch moved to this place. I know I left in the spring, we really went there, and once he came back, it was like we were back where we were. We’ll be competitive. It was really good.
“Still Coach Kelly, but now he has the pillows.”
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Kelly said she “remained positive (was) tough” during the exhaustive detox regime.
“My biggest thing of course was the inclination of God, my faith and just knowing that it would be consistent through it all,” Kelly said. “We promised that good things are going to happen if you believe, but we also promise that they will be tested. I have gone through one shoulder. I am superior. I have gone through it all. , to make an example of myself for the new guys and just show that it can’t freeze. I put my identity in the Lord. “
And when did he finally get the call to run on the field against the Horned Frogs? How did it all work out mentally and emotionally? What did she think?
“It all works,” he said. “It was a lot of work. It was a lot of double days. Pull on, I still do extra workouts every week even though I knew I was playing. It was like, I don’t want to change it because it’s not 100 percent still, I guess. to wear a support, I don’t need to be careful, it was just to keep working. “
Riley said the NCAA has the potential to appeal, even though Kelly plays in five games, but it seems unlikely. Medical red shirts are given when an athlete’s injury is over and medical red contenders must play at no more than 30% of a team’s games. If he wins the OU on Saturday and Kelly plays in five games, he will be 33 percent. Such cases of adversity appear occasionally positive, but being favored by the NCAA is not something everyone wants to depend on.
“It’s in the back of our minds,” Riley said. “It is a question we have asked. But at least we are going to admit right now if he had to play two more ball games that this would be the end of his career.”
The final decision is based on Kelly. But coaching staff and Kelly’s family are also part of the discussion.
“It includes us all,” Riley said last week. “You can see what so many different ways and there are different options with it. So we will settle on what is best for him and better for our team.
“But hopefully we got some games to play and it becomes a factor.”