In a move that may not only prepare him for the NFL, but also help save his coach's job, Indiana's record-setting QB Antwaan Randle El is shifting to wide receiver. And, the Heisman candidate reports, this is not just an offseason experiment.
"I want to play quarterback, no doubt," Randle El told ESPNMAG.com Thursday. "But most people who know the game have told me that [the NFL] is not going to give me a chance to play quarterback though."
Hoosier coach Cam Cameron says the move gives the team, 13-31 in Cameron's four seasons at IU, its best chance of winning, and Randle-El, a 5'10", 194-pound rising senior, agrees. Indiana starts spring ball March 21 and needs to replace three senior receivers, including the Hoosiers' top two targets, Jerry Dorsey and Versie Gaddis. Randle El's backup QB, strong-armed 6'4", 235-pound junior Tommy Jones, also appears ready to lead the offense -- provided he has a playmaker on the outside. The hope is for the dynamic option guy to give the Hoosiers that kind of weapon working out of the Z position (slot). "I'm going to do whatever it takes to win games here," Randle El says.
The move, Cameron says, is designed to get his best 11 players out on the field. Although he still plans on utilizing Randle El, No. 2 all-time at IU in passing yardage, at QB in red-zone situations and as a returnman, expect Jones to take 95 percent of the snaps in spring drills.
Randle El, who was on pace to reach the Big Ten's top 10 in both career rushing and passing yardage, is working overtime to get up to speed as a wideout. He took this winter off from playing for the Hoosier basketball team, and the former Chicago Cubs 14th-round pick also is bypassing playing centerfield for IU's baseball team -- all so he can refine his route-running.
Even with his dazzling quickness, Randle El has found his new position requires a different type of wiggle than running the option. "I'm really working on bursting out of my cuts and keeping my head straight," he says. "As a quarterback, I could be wild, but working against DBs, you have to be more precise because it's easier for them to read."
For now, he's catching 50 to 100 balls a day from Jones and a JUGS machine. As for those Heisman dreams, Randle El has taken a bottom-line approach. "Without us winning games," he says, "I won't have a chance."
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