John Kelley enters 35th season at University with a deep and talented roster

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — John Kelley is the dean of West Virginia high school football coaches and is entering his 35th season leading the Hawks of University High School. He has coached twenty playoff teams during his tenure, including last year’s squad. Kelley has had a good feeling about this 2021 group of Hawks for a while.

“I said that we were going to go through a couple down years,” Kelley said. “And I liked the group that came in when they were real young and if they stuck together, we would have a pretty good football team. I think we are going to see that come to fruition this year and next year. I like our numbers and I like the quality and the depth we have. So I think we are going to be a much better football team.”

“It is easier to do more complex plays because we have a lot of older and experienced guys that really know what they are doing,” said University senior receiver/defensive back Corban Cross. “It is easy when (Kelley) tells us something new. We don’t have to worry about people not knowing what they are doing. Everyone knows their jobs.”

A senior-heavy roster is one of the more experienced groups to take the field on Bakers Ridge since an 11-1 season in 2017.¬†University must replace their last year’s leading rusher in Eliki Barner and their leading receiver in T.T. Brooks. But Kelley likes the look of his offense led by junior quarterback Chase Edwards. He tossed fifteen touchdowns against just two interceptions last fall.

“I will put our skill up against anyone in the state,” Kelley said. “(Sage) Clawges at receiver and Jaeden Hammack back at receiver. And the quarterback Edwards is back and I have a nice bevy of running backs. We have a lot of speed so I like where we are at there.”

At the point of attack, the Hawks return several starters on the line and Kelley believes he has some depth to work with. It is a group led by senior Corbin Turney.

“My freshman year, we had such a young line,” Turney said. “Finally in the senior year we have rebuilt. We have a thousand-pound-plus line combined. It is super-exciting. We have so many people competing for positions. We should have a really good line.”

“I would say 1-through-7 we are good,” Kelley said. “We have a couple sophomores that can step right in and play. And they may win the position, it is way too early to make a call. We have everybody returning that played last year. We have good size. We are 275 and up. Fortunately with Noah Braham, we are going to use him on offense as well as defense. We are going to have some kids that are going to have to play one way and with the big guys, that is really a beneficial thing to have.”

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