High School Sports

Ocean Springs football star has seen his recruiting stock take a big jump

After flying under the radar as a prospect for much of his high school football career, Micah Kelly has suddenly never been more popular.

The Ocean Springs senior running back picked up his first two scholarship offers from FBS programs last week — Western Kentucky and Toledo.

WKU was the first to make the offer on Dec. 10 and Montario Hardesty, a former running back at Tennessee and for the Cleveland Browns, made him an offer not long after joining the Hilltoppers’ staff under new head coach Tyson Helton.

Hardesty had watched Kelly’s film while he was a member of the Tennessee staff and he was anxious to offer the powerful runner as soon as he landed the new job at WKU.

“You never know who is watching you,” Kelly said. “It’s very satisfying. Everybody wants to play at that high level, but not many get that opportunity. To be granted that opportunity means a lot to me.”

Not long after Kelly got the offer from WKU, Toledo head coach Jason Candle followed him on Twitter and Rockets running backs coach Kerry Dixon II contacted him the next day to inform him that he had a scholarship to offer.

Prior to last week, Kelly held FCS offers from Illinois State, Indiana State, Nicholls and Incarnate Word. It now seems like his list of FBS options will continue to grow headed into National Signing day on Feb. 6.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Kelly made an official visit to Toledo over the weekend and expects to make more trips in January.

While WKU and Toledo were the first FBS programs to offer Kelly, they weren’t the first to make contact. Northwestern University has stayed in touch with Kelly and the Ocean Springs staff since about the midway point of the season and there’s a decent chance he’ll have an invitation to visit the Evanston, Illinois campus in January.

Kelly put together a stellar senior year at Ocean Springs after transferring in from Gautier in January. He ran 263 times for 1,560 yards and 16 touchdowns while pulling in 10 receptions for 150 yards and two scores for the Greyhounds.

Kelly said the decision to transfer less than 6 miles away away from the Gautier High School campus was a significant boost to his career.

“It helped me a lot,” he said. “I feel like at Ocean Springs, the coaches kind of developed me. They took what I already had and took me over the top.”

At Gautier, Kelly was one important piece of the puzzle.

At Ocean Springs, Kelly was the centerpiece of the offense.

“He had a very productive year and coaches saw his talents against good football teams,” Ocean Springs coach Ryan Ross said. “He can catch the football. He has great vision as far as making cuts and breaking tackles.”

Perhaps Kelly’s greatest asset is that he keeps grinding for extra yardage.

“He always finishes his runs heading north, going forward,” Ross said. “He’s always getting those extra yards that way. He’s not one of those guys that’s going to dance. He’ll make one move, get back up the field for positive yards.”

While other high school seniors on the Coast will be signing with their new programs on Wednesday, Kelly will wait until Feb. 6 to sign his letter of intent.

If the offer list continues to grow, the decision will only become more difficult for Kelly. He lists Toledo, WKU and Illinois State as his top schools at the moment.

“It’s kind of stressful at times,” Kelly said. “You never know what can happen. It’s a fast process when you look at the signing dates and stuff like that. But it’s a fun process, a good process. Not many are granted the opportunity.”

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.