The Randle El Mystery
Sept. 4, 2001
By Tony Haynes
The first game of a college football season is kind of like that first time behind the wheel of a car: you're never quite sure what to expect.
And because there is only one first game each year, every coach does his best to create as much uncertainty in the mind of an opponent as possible. Indiana's Cam Cameron is no different than any of his other coaching colleagues.
Cameron's best player, Antwaan Randle El, could very well be the only preseason Heisman candidate in history who doesn't have a set position. Will he play quarterback? Will he line up at wide receiver? Or will he position himself at tailback?
The answer to those questions will likely be 'all of the above.' The big trial balloon floating out of Bloomington hints that Randle El, who was one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten last season, will be more of a wide receiver-type player this fall. Junior Tommy Jones, who threw a grand total of 25 passes last season, was listed as Indiana's No.1 quarterback coming out of spring practice.
NC State's only recourse has been to prepare for every possible scenario, which is exactly what Cameron was hoping for. But then again, the Wolfpack would be delighted to see Randle El spending most of his time at the wide receiver spot when the Hoosiers visit Carter-Finley Stadium on Thursday.
"If he gets out there at wide receiver, that would be a relief," said NC State linebacker Levar Fisher. "When he's at quarterback you never know what he's going to do, he's got so many moves. I don't see why he would be at wide receiver. I think that's what they want us to think."
With Randle El playing quarterback last season, Indiana led the Big Ten in rushing (226.4 yards per game). The Hoosiers also put up an average of 30.6 points per game, the second best figure in school history.
And in the Wolfpack's come from behind 41-38 victory over IU last September, Randle El was a one man wrecking crew, passing for 240 yards and rushing for 81 more.
"What makes him so special is his ability to break tackles," said NC State safety Terrence Holt, whose block of an Indiana field goal attempt on the last play of the game preserved the Pack's victory last season. "He's so elusive and slippery, you think you have him down and then he gets out of it. He has the ability to throw as well as run. Some quarterbacks are able to run but can't throw as well as he can. He's equally talented at running and passing. That makes him real tough."
No wonder the Pack would rather see Indiana's "Mr. Everything" at wide receiver.
How Randle El is used and what position he'll play the most will likely remain a mystery until Thursday night. For his part, coach Cameron has remained as elusive as a CIA operative in China.
"It's a unique situation because we have a unique player," Cameron said. "How the whole thing will evolve will depend on a lot of things. It will depend on field position, it could depend on the weather. They (NC State) have a history of early games where it rains. Obviously he's a pretty effective quarterback in inclement weather so that could affect how much he plays quarterback. But Tommy Jones is going to start the game at quarterback or at least he'll be in the huddle on the first play of the game. We'll just play it as the situation dictates. [Randle El] will see significant time at quarterback and significant time at receiver."
Tramain Hall Petition Denied:The NC State department of athletics has announced that the NCAA has denied the university's resubmitted petition for a waiver of initial eligibility requirements for Tramain Hall, a decision that NC State will appeal. Academic privacy prohibits additional comment on the specifics of his case.