Cats prepare for IU's dangerous Randle El

The Cats are playing the guessing game this week in regard to what position Indiana's talented Antwaan Randle El will play...

LEXINGTON, Ky. --- It's the Wildcats' $64,000 question this week. Actually, it's three questions.

Will he line up at quarterback? Will he line up at receiver? Will he do both?

He, of course, is the player who will command the most attention in Kentucky's game Saturday at Indiana --- like he does in every week he steps on the field --- Hoosier standout Antwaan Randle El.

UK defensive tackle Jeremy Caudill (68)
tried to track down IU quarterback
Antwaan Randle El in last year's game

The 5-foot-10, 194-pound senior is regarded by many as best athlete in the college game. And he stands on the verge of history, needing only 188 yards passing and 32 yards rushing to become the first player in Division I history to pass for 6,000 yards and rush for 3,000 in a career.

But it may be receiving yards that poses the biggest threat to Kentucky on Saturday. That is, if the Hoosiers stick with their current system of Tommy Jones under center and Randle El at wideout.

In its first game under Cam Cameron's new system, Indiana struggled royally. After averaging 30.6 points per game in 2000 with Randle El at quarterback, the second-highest total in school history, the Hoosiers were stymied in a 35-14 loss at NC State. They managed only 276 total yards and failed to score until a pair of mop-up TDs inside the game's final 5:26.

Randle El had a decent game (7 rushes for 37 yards, 4 receptions for 30 yards) but nothing like the damage he can inflict as a quarterback. That led to speculation by many that he may wind up back under center against the Cats.

"The question we have, obviously, is what are they going to do with Randle El?" Kentucky coach Guy Morriss said. "Where will we see him, and what will our preparation be during the week to get ready to face him?

"We just don't know. They've invested so much time in their two-quarterback rotation with him as a wide receiver and so forth. Are they going to junk it and put him back at quarterback? It's my guess he'll probably play quarterback. However, some of the coaches on our staff don't think they need to panic and make a change (in preparation). We've kind of got a split opinion on the staff, so we'll try to prepare for both."

"Either way, he's just a great athlete."

That may be an understatement if you ask the man charged with getting the UK defense ready to face the Hoosier star.

"I think he's probably the best quarterback I've ever gone against," said the Cats' defensive coordinator, John Goodner. "When we were at (Texas) Tech and Baylor playing Nebraska all the time, we saw Scott Frost and Tommie Frazier. I thought those guys were pretty damn good quarterbacks, but watching their (IU) film from last year, this guy is probably as good an athlete as I've ever seen."

The UK players who have faced Randle El in the past can attest to that.

"Oh man," said junior outside safety David Johnson when asked to describe the first thing that came to his mind at the mention of Randle El's name. "Athlete."

"You always worry about him making the big play, even when you think you have him stopped," said senior defensive end Chris Demaree.

"Last year was the first I'd seen him," said sophomore cornerback Leonard Burress. "He was good... real good."

Added Burress: "There are so many things he can do, I don't think it matters where he lines up."

Or does it?

"I think he presents a lot more problems as a quarterback myself," Morriss said. "Some of the things he can do --- his mobility and his athleticism --- I don't know that I wouldn't rather see him as a wide receiver to be honest with you."

And for good reason. The Cats just saw a multi-dimensional quarterback in Ball State's Talmadge Hill, who pales in comparison to Randle El, yet burned the UK defense for 170 yards passing and 71 yards rushing.

"In this day and age, with all the spread offense, you're going to see more and more quarterback draws and option-type things out of the backfield," said Goodner, who will work his unit approximately 50/50 this week in preparation for Jones and Randle El. "We've got to get better against that."

If not, Randle El could make the Cats pay in Bloomington.

"The biggest thing is," Morriss said, "everytime he gets his hands on the football, he's got a chance to take it to the end zone. He's a threat wherever he goes. If he's over on the bench, you better send somebody over there."


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