Humbled. Hungry. Eager for a second chance. Sensing an opportunity.
That’s where new Arizona quarterback Jerrard Randall finds himself.
The former four-star recruit, rated as the 10th-best dual-threat quarterback in the country after his senior season, at Chaminade-Madonna High School in Hollywood, Fla., backpedaled to junior college ball after spending two seasons at LSU and never getting off the sideline.
“You go to LSU and you think you’re a superstar and everything,” Randall said in a phone interview Friday. “And you’re really not.”
He hopes to regain superstar status at Arizona.
Randall committed on an official visit to the UA campus last weekend, signed a letter of intent Wednesday and plans to arrive Jan. 10 in advance of the start of the spring semester.
“I have a little chip on my shoulder,” said Randall, who played at Northeast Mississippi Junior College this season.
“When I came up, I was top in my class and everything, and not getting to play at LSU hurt me. When I got pushed back further, going to JUCO ball, I never stopped fighting. I love the game of football. I have been playing this for game for 15 years. I just couldn’t stop playing.”
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez first appeared on Randall’s recruiting radar in early November.
“We talked to the guys at LSU, certainly the guys at the junior college,” Rodriguez said Friday. “They say he’s a tremendous athlete and extremely competitive. … I think he understands this is an opportunity for him.”
In a big way. Not many other major-college schools will have the kind of free-for-all quarterback competition in the spring and fall that Arizona will conduct. The winner gets to start for a coaching staff that runs an offense that has done great things for quarterbacks.
“I look at it as I’m going into this offense, trying to reach my full potential as a quarterback,” Randall said.
“I will have to go hard every play and pay attention and listen. I think I will be great in this offense. I think I will be ready.”
Sounds like someone who has learned from his experiences at LSU, where he might have believed his own recruiting hype. Plus, the LSU offense ended up bring more of a pro-style approach, an imperfect match to his physical skills. Rodriguez’s zone-read attack is a better fit.
Chip Kelly thought Randall was a zone-read quarterback. Randall initially committed to Oregon as a high school senior in the same Ducks’ recruiting class as Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota. Randall was rated the highest.
You know the rest. Manziel signed with Texas A&M and won the 2012 Heisman Trophy. Mariota spent much of this season as a leading Heisman candidate.
Yes, Randall’s fall to Northeast Mississippi Junior College was steep and humbling. The latter was his word.
He never qualified at Oregon but landed at LSU. He redshirted in 2011 and ran the scout team again in 2012.
“LSU, it seems very far back in my past,” Randall said. “I did a lot a wrong. I battled the system. I just started to mature and grow up and I finally got my head on right. I felt it was time for a change.”
In his second go-around on the recruiting circuit, he had scholarship offers from, among others, Nebraska, South Florida, Kansas State and Georgia Tech, and he had been receiving interest from Ole Miss and Arkansas.
Randall (6-1, 190) didn’t have the most accurate season passing the ball, but, clearly, college coaches were still entranced by all that athletic ability. He completed only 65 of 152 passes for 861 yards, with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions, this season.
Junior college ball is often sloppy, and Randall said he didn’t really have time to establish rhythm with his receivers.
“I never knew where they were going to be at. It’s all about timing,” he said.
“I made some bad passes, too. I had a lot of ups and downs at JUCO. I didn’t have the best season. Once I get the timing down pat with my receivers, I think my passing will be fine.”
Randall said reports of him running the 40-yard dash in the 4.3-second range are true.
“I am quicker than I am fast,” he said.
Said Rodriguez: “Jerrard is probably a little faster than any quarterback we’ve had here. He can bring a different element.”
Randall is athletic enough to potentially play receiver, but Rodriguez says Arizona is looking at him “strictly” as a quarterback. Spring practice will begin to tell the tale of Randall’s second chance.
“This is really important to me,” Randall said. “This is one of the greatest opportunities I have had in my lifetime.”