Sales pitch and catch

The way B.J. Kelley tells it, it sounds like Northwestern has settled on a pretty direct recruiting tactic for the three-star receiver: Appealing to his inner wideout. The tag-team recruiting effort being employed by receivers coach Kevin Johns and O-coordinator Mick McCall – plus the packets stuffed with receiving statistics postmarked from Evanston – have put NU in Kelley's top three.

Salesmanship has long been part of the recruiting process: Coaches have myriad ways to coax players into committing. Look at our tradition! We've put seven guys in the NFL in the last three years! We have THE best academics! THE best facilities! THE best fans!

Whatever the sales pitch, chances are a school has one.

Well, in its recruitment of three-star receiver B.J. Kelley, Northwestern is no different – at least as far as the salesmanship is concerned.

According to Kelley, a pair of Northwestern coaches – receivers coach and passing game coordinator Kevin Johns, along with offensive coordinator Mick McCall – are consistently in his ear (and his Facebook Inbox) about what Northwestern has to offer. And then there is the bounty of mail that's postmarked from Evanston.

Indeed, Kelley, from Fresno, Calif., says he communicates with Northwestern more than any other school recruiting him. Phone calls, Facebook, snail mail: Northwestern has a diligent marketing strategy.

Kelley was recently clocked at 4.43.

But what's different about Northwestern's recruitment of Kelley is the method of persuasion. To hear Kelley tell it, the Wildcats aren't so focused on the academics (which are top-flight) or trajectory of the program (only going up) or the proximity to Chicago (down the road).

Instead, Kelley says that Johns and McCall have a different tact: They're appealing directly to his inner wide receiver.

"Coach Johns, he explains things really well," said the 6-2, 175-pound Kelley. "He knows what kind of player I am, so they're sending me packets about how much they pass it, how many yards they had, who was there last year and how many balls everyone caught. It's not forced at all; I like that.

"And then I talk with McCall a lot too, and they back each other up. McCall makes a lot of the same points as Coach Johns, and they're all accurate."

What are the points Johns and McCall are making? Basically that Northwestern is one of the most prolific passing outfits in FBS, and as such, Kelley would never have to worry about being bored should he don NU purple.

At 6-2, Kelley has good size.
"Every receiver loves to hear that they throw," Kelley, who's been clocked at 4.43, said. "I know that if I went out there I'd definitely get passes thrown my way. I'd get the chance to play and I like that.

"The stats themselves pretty much got me interested. They throw a lot up there. And all the facts they tell me, I'm researching them and they're all true."

At this point, Kelley says he is only really considering three schools: Northwestern, Cal and Oregon. "Those are the three right there," Kelley said. "Unless someone pops up out of nowhere, it's probably going to one of those three." That being the case, there are two big things currently standing in Northwestern's favor:

(1) Unlike NU, Cal and Oregon have yet to offer a scholarship, and (2) Those other schools don't pass it nearly as much as the Cats.

Making the relatively safe assumption that Kelley will end up at Oregon, Cal or NU, how about a look at some numbers?

* Northwestern ranked fifth in the nation in receptions last season with 342; Cal was No. 76 with 214, and Oregon was No. 86 with less than 200.

* Cal only had one receiver with at least 30 receptions and none with more than 43; Northwestern had four receivers with at least 42 receptions.

* Oregon's third-leading pass catcher had 24 catches; Northwestern's third-leading pass catcher had 47, and its sixth-leading receiver had 21.

* Cal's top three receivers combined for 98 catches; Northwestern's top receiver had 91 catches, and the top three had 195.

As a junior, Kelley took eight catches to the house.

Don't think these stats are lost on Kelley.

"It's kind of unique," Kelley,'s No. 113-ranked 2011 receiver, said. "Coaches from those other schools can't say, ‘We throw it this many times and our guys catch this many balls and we have this many passes.' These other coaches are giving me stats and stuff, but you really can't compare it with how much they throw at Northwestern."

These stats – and the NU coaches who are making sure Kelley is well-informed – look to have earned the Wildcats a visit from Kelley this fall. He said that he was gunning to come out to Evanston with his coach during the second week of his season. And if not then, sometimes shortly thereafter.

"I can't say it's set in stone," Kelley said, "but it's definitely important to me."

As is catching passes, which, from the sound of things, has a lot to do with why Northwestern is in as good a position as anyone to nab a commitment from Kelley.

You can comment on this story at the Ryan Field Message Board. Also, feel free to contact Purple Reign at

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