- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

CINCINNATI (AP) - Ryan Kelly spent hundreds of hours driving with his parents, Dave and Ann, on unofficial visits all over the South and Midwest.

Turns out, they were pretty much wasted after the first 16, which he spent in one day during spring break driving with his father to and from Alabama.

The Lakota West senior offensive lineman, on The Associated Press East Region 25 list of top recruits, announced on July 19 that he was making a verbal commitment to the Crimson Tide. Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the Top 25 preseason poll.

Kelly passed on offers from schools such as Arizona, North Carolina State, Boston College, Michigan State, Louisville, Syracuse, Illinois and what he described as the three finalists _ Florida, Florida State and his parents alma mater, Cincinnati.

“I’ve been there three times and the relationships just keep getting stronger and stronger,” said Kelly, who plans to major in business and psychology. “They always treat me first class. That’s where I feel the most at home. I feel like that’s where I can get the best education and the best future for myself in both football and off the field.”

Kelly, who also can play guard and tackle, is ranked by rivals.com as the No. 6 center in the country and the No. 18 prospect in the state. He already has accepted an invitation to play in the Under Armour All-American Game in January. He also was a Great Miami Conference first-team all-conference pick as a junior for a Firebirds team that shared the championship and lost in the first round of the Ohio Division I playoffs under coach Larry Cox.

“He’s a kid who can very easily get to 300 pounds,” Cox said. “They project him as a center and inside guy, but they are going to start him out at tackle to see if he can fit there. They know he can play. They like Ryan so well because he can play all three (positions).”

Committing early allowed Kelly to reach another goal. After watching teammate Jordan Hicks extend the recruiting process before choosing Texas, Kelly wanted an unencumbered senior season.

“He said to me, ‘I have no idea how those guys take it the distance,’” Cox said. “‘I wouldn’t be able to put up with it.’”

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