'Awesome' coordinator impresses Darnold
If you spin it, they will come. As the all-stars of college football readied for the NFL Combine and pro workouts before countless scouts, players on the prep level were doing the same early this spring for college coaches circling the country to pinpoint who to offer scholarships. It can be a pressure-packed time for young men dreaming of competing on the next level. For quarterback prospect Sam Darnold it's simply part of the process and nothing to be nervous about. "Not at all," Darnold told InsideTennessee. "I just feel like if they're going to offer me, they're going to offer me. They're not going to offer the guy I try to be on the field. I'm just going to be the guy that I always am. If I make a throwing error, I've just got to get over it." Tennessee's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach is Mike Bajakian, and the second-year aide journeyed to San Clemente (Calif.) High School to diagnose for himself if the Scout three-star prospect has what it takes. The answer: yes. "My head coach at the high school got a text from coach Jake to call him. So, I called him," Darnold said. "Then, coach Jake told me he's going to hand the phone to (Tennessee head) coach (Butch) Jones. Me and coach Jones talked for a little bit about the quarterback situation and talked about how good of a fit I'd be at Tennessee and what type of offense they run and how I'd be perfect for that." The coordinator and the Golden State triggerman originally met last summer. Bajakian's trip to San Clemente came within the last few weeks to see the right-hander once again. The two have the makings of a relationship that could translate into something beyond recruiter-recruit. "Coach Jake's awesome," Darnold said. "I can sense that he's a really outgoing personality and really serious guy, which I like. I like that he takes his job seriously. So far, I really like him." Given its league and tradition, the Volunteers carry weight in the recruiting landscape even as far as California. "Tennessee is a really good school," the QB said. "Football is everything there. That's what would intrigue me the most if I did decide to go there is that football is everything there." The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has criteria to help him decide on where to play his college football. "The most important thing…what the talent would be, the people that I'd be around on a daily basis and I'm really interested in the weather and how it's going to be during when we're playing football and not playing football. And, just getting along with everyone." A Rocky Top trip should take place within the next month or so. "I'm just really looking forward to getting up there," Darnold said. "Coach Jones was talking about something June 7 — a junior day or something like that. He would show me around and we'd just talk. "I don't know for sure but it's very likely that I do go." Darnold pointed to the Orange & White as being his most prestigious among his offers to date: "Tennessee — and that's about it. The SEC and the title that Tennessee holds." Nevada, Northwestern, San Diego State, Utah and Wake Forest are others to place an offer on the table. He says he would prefer to make a public declaration "by late June." As a former linebacker, Darnold brings a level of physicality to the quarterback spot that's rarely seen. "I definitely play within the offense," the 6-foot-4, 208-pounder said. "Say if something goes wrong, I can definitely do my best to improvise — I think I can improvise pretty well. I like to run around a little bit. I'm going to have to learn how to get down and avoid hits because I really like contact. My sophomore year I started at linebacker and receiver cause they had a senior quarterback."
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