Kelleher puts the S-T-U-D in student

Kelleher puts the S-T-U-D in student

It takes all types to fill a roster on a major college football team and that includes those that are extra serious about their academics. Such is the case of Nolan Kelleher, the 6-6, 305 pound mauler of an offensive lineman from Wando High School (Mount Pleasant, SC). Kelleher committed to Florida Saturday.

Nolan Kelleher has been playing top shelf football for four years now according to Wando head coach James Noonan.

"He's a dominating offensive lineman and has been for three years," Noonan told FightinGators.com Saturday. "He earned the starting job after a varsity senior was injured when Nolan was a freshman. That was game four or so and in the AAAA level in South Carolina.

"He's been a 300 pounder since he was a freshman. He's kind of changed his body a little bit. He's grown into his size 18 shoes which were 17's when he came in as a freshman. He has big long arms and big hands. You can see that he was going to be a massive young man when he walked into the doors at Wando High School."

The Gators, in serious need of offensive line prospects and with low numbers on the roster, had to like how the young man improved in his time at Wando. Although they have told him he could play anywhere on the line at Florida and they would have to figure it out, Coach Noonan believes Kelleher is ready to play inside once he arrives. The staff also has to be thrilled that the young man will be graduating early and signing in January.

"Nolan has been a big part of our offense for four years," Coach Noonan said. "He's improved his athleticism and quickness and done the things he needed to do to make himself a division one prospect. Early on he was just a big kid.

"He has tremendous potential. I think he translates to a guard, but that isn't my decision, after he graduates in January that is for Florida to decide how to use him. He could play any of the interior spots and maybe if he continues to elongate, he could play tackle.

"He is a great pass setter. We move him around a lot. We pull him and he loves to get to that second and third level and mess around with those smaller guys."

He's a bit of a different breed among college football players that play at the highest level. Usually mesmerized by the NFL draft and making a living playing the sport they love, according to Noonan, Kelleher derives his motivation from the classroom and what the future holds for him away from the football field.

This is why Noonan believes that Kelleher is a really good fit at Florida.

"He is a ‘gentle giant' and a kid that has that light switch that you like as a coach as far as off the field," Noonan said. "On the field he has that light switch that cuts on and knows how to get out there and start mashing people.

"He does it the right way and is great in the classroom. He is very motivated and driven in the classroom. He is someone that can actually balance an Engineering degree and football. There are a lot of folks that venture into that and can't follow through once they figure out how much time and commitment it takes to be a division one football player. If anyone can do it, Nolan Kelleher can."

As far as Florida is concerned, his recruitment was rather quiet publicly, that was until about a week ago. His name was hardly mentioned if at all around the Internet and various networks that cover recruiting. Noonan says that Kelleher is just not into all of the social aspects of recruiting and is very focused on the necessary things needed to succeed.

"He's very quiet and isn't one to respond to Facebook and Twitter," said the coach. "His folks have done a very good job with him,. We are lucky to have them.

"Anyone that is going to put academics where he does, they don't have time keeping up with the Facebook and Twitter. He is dedicated and is going to make sure he has his academic work done first. His parents have done a great job with that especially in this recruiting process."

And with most of the masses learning of his approval of Florida only recently, Coach Noonan once again say it came down to academics. Kelleher visited Florida two weeks ago and was sold with that part of what the school and program had to offer.

"It all came down to the Engineering school," Noonan said. "He puts the academics first and wasn't going to visit anyone that didn't have an Engineering program."

The other reason the Gators were late on him was because of the late addition of Brad Lawing. The defensive line coach at Florida came from South Carolina and recruits the area for the Gators. Yet, he only arrived in Gainesville in late January.

"It was a late deal and getting Coach Lawing on board down there from South Carolina and being familiar with the area coaches, I think that helped," Noonan said. "I was in Columbia for a long time and he was right around the corner. Coach Lawing recruited a quarterback I had at North Carolina.

"It didn't take long for Nolan to pop up on their radar (after that) and they liked his film. It took only a phone call or two to realize that he was a guy that they wanted to pursue.

"I knew Nolan would be interested because of their Engineering program. He just went there a couple of weeks ago and just came back ecstatic about the visit and the coaches and the possibilities with the Engineering program being right next door to the stadium.

"He took a visit to Stanford and may have gone out there if they offered, but they didn't. Everything came right back to that visit with Florida. He narrowed it down to Clemson, Tennessee, and Florida based on the football potential and how it married up with the Engineering programs. Ultimately it came down to the glove just fitting right at Florida."

There is little doubt that Kelleher is a physical beast at the high school level. Florida will graduate two interior linemen in center Jonotthan Harrison and guard Jon Halapi9o at the end of the year. Could Kelleher be a man that could pop right in and play right away? Noonan, knows a lot about the rigors of playing in the SEC and believes it too much for almost all freshmen including his star pupil to jump right into a starting job or play a lot as a freshman. However, with the makeup of Nolan Kelleher, he wasn't willing to write it totally off.

"It is all up to Florida's needs, but I don't think there is any freshman that can walk in and be ready for the SEC unless it is by injuries or default," Noonan said. "I am not quite familiar with Florida's depth chart. That is up to those coaches and Nolan and how he fits in the big picture down there. He is a motivated young man and I have grown to know him over the last four years, so I know if anyone can do it I know Nolan can."

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