Coaches, Players Hail Jaylen Kelly-Powell's 'Smart' Brand of Football

Coaches, Players Hail Jaylen Kelly-Powell's 'Smart' Brand of Football

Football

Coaches, Players Hail Jaylen Kelly-Powell's 'Smart' Brand of Football

ANN ARBOR, Mich — More often than not, it’s not about a player’s first year on campus than it is the subsequent years.

Famously, Jim Harbaugh has often stated that the biggest jump for football players tends to come between their freshman and sophomore seasons, when all of that first year of coaching starts to click, and the game starts to slow down. However, what happens when a player is so good at multiple positions that they try and put him, basically, wherever, whenever?

Such was the case a year ago for now-second year safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell, the former Detroit (MI) Cass Tech standout, who Michigan coaches got a little Jabrill Peppers-y with in his freshman season, in that, he could play just about everywhere, thus, they put him everywhere.

We saw Kelly-Powell get significant game time on special teams, but when he would come in for relief, sometimes he was a safety, sometimes at nickel, sometimes at corner.

Now, Kelly-Powell has been moved back to safety full-time — along with special teams — where he can work to develop his skill set very specifically.

His teammates at the position are excited about his prospects now that he’s back to being a safety full-time. Josh Metellus said last week that Kelly-Powell’s smarts are what helps him be such a versatile, dynamic player — but that’s also why he’s such an asset at the safety position.

“Jaylen is a real smart guy, real quick guy,” Metellus said. “So you know Jaylen rotates back and forth. He just knows the defense well. He knows what offenses like to run. You can just see his smart football plays come into action. He’s a real smart football player. He knows where to be. I feel like Jaylen is taking steps up.”

His position coach — both at safety and special teams — agrees with that sentiment.

If you’re looking to pin down which safety position that Kelly-Powell will be coming in at, then good luck — because he’s been practicing both at free and strong safety, Chris Partridge says.

Partridge sees the versatility that Kelly-Powell has, and says that while it’s a boon to the team that he can play anywhere, the coaches have to be smart about how to deploy him.

But, he also does have something of a ‘break in case of emergency’ type quality about him. The staff may want to keep him at safety full-time, but should something happen to another player in the secondary or on special teams, Kelly-Powell is fully capable of coming in and taking over a role he’s not used to.

“Smart – he can do a lot, and we put a lot on him for that reason,” Partridge said. “Having a utility guy that can play in both safety spots, can play nickel – if anything ever happened, could go out and survive at corner. Can do things on special teams. Can fill into different spots for different injuries and things like that.

“For a guy like that, it takes a little bit longer to get comfortable. Last year, he’s doing all that stuff, because he does it, but is he really doing it well? He’s taking that next step, where now, he’s doing all that stuff and he’s doing it well. He’s kinda like the Swiss Army Knife back there that can do that.

“As a coach, you want to make sure you put him in the right position to succeed, and he’s been there too. He’s a good cover guy, a good inside cover guy. He brings a lot to that room.”

And maybe the biggest compliment comes in the form of one sentence, from his defensive coordinator Don Brown.

Now that Kelly-Powell can focus almost solely on the safety position, Brown is excited about his prospects this year.

At the outset of fall camp, Brown simply said: “The guy that’s made the biggest jump is probably Jaylen Kelly-Powell.”

We’ll see on Sept. 1 if Kelly-Powell’s offseason studiousness pays off in the form of increased playing time with the defense.

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