Wahoos want to get Kelly more touches

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Listed at 5-8 and 160 pounds, rising sophomore wide receiver Tavares Kelly is the smallest player on the Virginia football roster this spring.

But the UVA coaching staff still sees big plays in Kelly's future, on both offense and special teams.

Kelly arrived at the school from a Florida high school, where he also excelled as a sprinter in track. That speed drew praise from UVA coaches and teammates last summer, as Kelly made a strong impression during preseason camp.

Kelly burn a potential redshirt year by appearing in all 13 games for UVA last fall. He finished his first college season with 10 catches for 121 yards and six carries for 21 yards on offense, and 13 punt returns for 143 yards -- including a UVA season-best 43-yarder at Duke -- plus three kickoff returns for 50 yards on special teams.

But Kelly expected to make more of an impact during his freshman season.

"I'm anxious right now. I think about it like 24/7, honestly," Kelly said after UVA's first spring practice last week. "That's what keeps me focused, because I know I didn't reach the goals I had for myself last year. So this year I have to make a great impact in order to help the team get to the point where we want to be."

Kelly said veteran teammates like Olamide Zaccheaus, Chris Peace and Tim Harris mentored him last fall, encouraging him to "just slow down, breathe, and take it one play at a time."

"They helped me work on the little things that I was missing, because I was always trying to focus on the big picture," Kelly said. "And the little things kept me from being where I wanted to be."

Kelly is now in his first round of off-season workouts and spring practices at UVA. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall says the goal this spring is to find more ways to put Kelly in position to make the impact he has envisioned for himself.

"Took us a long time through the season to find the right niche, the right role. And as we found and kind of got that sorted out, the other teams we were playing kind of found and sorted that out," Mendenhall said. "So we haven't yet found the perfect spot for him in terms of touches, in terms of the way he gets the ball and in terms of productivity. But we like the possibilities that exist."

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