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Kevin Kelley's mad football science now includes rugby concepts

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Kelley, if you're not familiar, is a high school football coach in Arkansas who has grown notorious for an unorthodox approach to the game. Basically, he's not interested in willingly giving the ball back to his opponent, so his teams almost never punt or kick the ball deep after scores.

He's had enormous success, and he was recently profiled by HBO's Real Sports for the second time. I highly recommend this segment if you have access to it, because it's fascinating to go behind the scenes and see how Kelley puts his teams together.

For example, Kelley implements a dozen different types of onside kicks. A dozen! From multi-fake-kicks to a drop-kick onside kick*** (!), to a straight fastball down the opponent's throat. Onside kicks require a certain amount of good luck, but I doubt there's anybody more prepared to execute them than Kelley's Pulaski Academy team.

(***It's legal to pick the ball off of the tee, then lateral it back to another guy who performs the drop-kick. I dunno if that's true in college, but it blew my mind.)

This year Kelley is bringing rugby concepts to his passing game after he discovered that explosive plays are more likely when three or four guys touch the ball as opposed to one or two. And explosive, 20-yard plays correlate highly with winning; the team with more big plays tends to win.

He found that on plays when two players touched the ball - a typical handoff or pass - teams gained 20 yards about 10 percent of the time. But when at least three players touched the ball - a trick play with a lateral involved - the percentage for gaining 20 yards rose to around 20 percent.

"That got me thinking," Kelley said. "How could we develop a system for more than two people to touch the ball?"

Right, so no kicks deep, almost no punts, and now he's implementing an aggressive, down-field triple-option sort of approach. He is basically my football hero.

At the end of the HBO piece, there's some discussion about what this all means for his potential in coaching, since he's not been able to break into college football. He had an opportunity to talk with Columbia about their head gig a few years ago, but they went in a more traditional--and as it turned out, disastrous--direction, despite having nothing to lose.

But it only takes one athletics director who thinks like this dude to make Kelley's college shot happen, and it will happen eventually. If you have a struggling FCS program with little history, for instance, what is the harm in giving him a shot? Somebody's going to come to that realization.