Georgia State will need to improve in a lot of areas in order to turn around last year's 3-8 season. This series will identify five players that could be candidates to have a breakout season for Georgia State and give them a push in a certain area. The players highlighted must have started fewer than 6 games for the Panthers, but also were on the team last season. The first player highlighted is defensive end John Kelly.
Position: Defensive End
Class: RS Sophomore
2011 Review: Did not see game action in 2011.
Spring 2012: Kelly was by far the most impressive defensive lineman over the first half of camp. He isn't the most physically strong player on the team, but he is relentless in his effort and is constantly around the football. He was one of the few defenders who was seen consistently getting penetration into the backfield. Unfortunately an injury kept him sidelined for the last half of spring, including the spring scrimmage.
2012 Depth Chart: The Panthers are desperate for a play maker at defensive end. Last year's starters, Christo Bilukidi and AJ Portee, are no longer with the team. Furthermore, the Panthers also lost some depth when freshman Roderick Thompson was dismissed from the team. With that being the case, the field is wide open for a defensive end to grab a starting position and there are few candidates who appear as well suited as Kelly.
2012 Outlook: Kelly appears to be one of the more talented defensive ends on the team. Hopefully he has added a little bit of bulk to his frame this offseason and perhaps maybe even gotten a haircut (Kelly stands out in a crowd due to his golden locks of blonde hair that go past his shoulders). If he can continue his performance from the spring into fall camp then he should be in line to earn a starting position. While he has not seen game action, Kelly has the tools to be a productive defensive lineman, but it remains to be seen if he will be the dominant pass rusher that the Panthers have lacked in their short history
Worst Case Scenario: Kelly is frequently injured and doesn't see the field in 2012. Meanwhile, the lack of depth at defensive end becomes horrifyingly apparent and the Panthers production at the position decreases from 2011.
Best Case Scenario: Kelly has added 10-15 pounds in the offseason and his new found physicality combined with his high motor leads him to a double digit sack season, which would match the career total of Bilukidi. The Panthers have found their dominant defensive end.
Prediction: Kelly is consistent and reliable, but not dominant. He will has seven or eight tackles for a loss and a few sacks, but his presence will mostly be felt in the run game and in particular in breaking up plays that develop behind the line of scrimmage such as reverses or option runs.
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