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Freeze will 'own' it if Kelly stumbles

OXFORD, Miss. -- There was no signing day drama with quarterback Chad Kelly. He signed with Ole Miss back in December and enrolled last month. But he was still the topic of conversation at Hugh Freeze's news conference Wednesday.

For the first time since Kelly was arrested on Dec. 22, Freeze addressed his future quarterback's status with the team.

"He's made some poor decisions that have cost him some opportunities and almost cost him this one," Freeze said. "He understands exactly what we have to do moving forward, and he's got some strong reins on him hopefully.

"I do think he has some redeeming qualities that hopefully we can help put some structure around him that will enable him to rewrite his story in a positive way. I'm sure hoping and pray like heck that he doesn't embarrass our team, our university and myself. But that is a possibility. That is certainly something I recognize and I will have to own."

In his lone season at East Mississippi Community College, Kelly threw for 3,906 yards with 47 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. With the departure of Bo Wallace, he has a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job this spring.

"I'm looking forward to that competition," Freeze said. "With him and Ryan [Buchanan] and DeVante [Kincade], it's going to be a good competition. All three are unique and have good skills. We'll see who adjusts to being in the leadership role the best."

Kelly, the 20-year-old nephew of Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, pleaded guilty last month to a non-criminal charge of disorderly conduct and agreed to 50 hours of community service following the fight with bouncers outside a Buffalo nightclub in December. He was kicked off the Clemson football team last April for what was said to be detrimental conduct.

Counting Kelly and the other midyear enrollees, the Rebels signed a total of 22 players in the 2015 recruiting class.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.