Vols Catch Last Train to the Coast

The curious courtship of San Diego St. Augustine High School quarterback Richard Kolvacheck proves that timing is as essential to recruiting success as it is in any other element of life.

Kolvacheck arrived on the west coast football scene with a bang as a sophomore, completing 197-of-323 passes for 2,565 yards, 30 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He was on pace to exceed those numbers as a junior — connecting on 140-of-232 attempts for 1,922 yards, 21 touchdowns and four picks — when he tore an ACL in the early stages of game No. 8.

That knocked him out of playoff action and cost him an opportunity to shine before the plethora of college scouts that frequent the fertile football fields of San Diego County during the post season. It also put him on the sidelines for the numerous Nike Camps that took place last spring.

Certainly his reputation as a mentally tough, physically gifted signal caller with a rocket launcher right arm was strong enough to keep him ranked among the top 15 quarterback prospects in the Class of 2003, and the big names came calling.

Among the schools he has visited are Notre Dame, Colorado and Washington. Kolvacheck was interested in both the Irish and Buffs, but each school got early commitments from other QB prospects and pulled out of the race. Washington also made a good impression two weeks ago, but no commitment has been forthcoming. Now Kolvacheck seems willing to let the season pass before making any other visits or making his decision.

That delay coincided with Tennessee broadening its QB search and led the Vols to make an offer. The end result is that Tennessee has been assured a visit and could be in a position to move to the head of the class. To underscore Kolvacheck's importance to UT consider that offensive coordinator Randy Sanders will be at St. Augustine's Division 3 semifinal clash against Mission Bay on Friday night.

Something new Sanders will see that other coaches haven't this season is the old Richard Kolvacheck. After a full year to rehab his knee, he appears to have fully regained the form that made him such an exciting prospect as a sophomore. The added experience augmented by his competitive nature have lifted his game and his team to another level.

Both will be thoroughly tested by Mission Bay which has won the last two San Diego County Division 3 championships and routinely produces five to ten Division I prospects.

While Kolvacheck's knee appears fully recovered, he has been hampered by an additional handicap, as he has played most of the season with a splint covering a broken little finger on his passing hand. His numbers are still impressive, although the emergence of a strong running game has allowed him the luxury to pace his comeback. Now he's focused on his season and the opportunity to lead his St. Augustine (8-2-1) to the Division 3 championship.

"I know that he's decided he doesn't want to take anymore recruiting trips until his season is over," said his mother, Ella. "It's kind of a distraction, kind of stressful to deal with both at the same time."

That fits well into Tennessee's game plan and gives the Vols an opportunity to make the best last impression. Kolvacheck is also looking at California and Arizona as well as Washington.

"He's still very interested in Washington," said St. Augustine head coach Jerry Ralph. "Tennessee is a hot one right now, too. They just offered him and Richard is very excited about it. I know he'll definitely visit there. He'll be fine and whoever lands him will be very grateful they did."

Kolvacheck, who has 4.8 speed, is rated the nation's No. 6 drop-back quarterback prospect behind Kyle Wright, Chris Leak, JaMarcus Russell, Matt Flynn and Robert Lane, but may have as good an arm as any prospect in the country.

"Kolvacheck has probably the biggest arm in the region," Greg Biggins of Student Sports writes. "If he can regain his athletic ability after losing some due to his ACL injury, he could have as big an impact as anyone."

That fits well with Tennessee's plans, too. And apparently his parents aren't opposed to their son going away to school instead of staying in state, or even in San Diego.

"I don't have a problem with that," his mother said of the prospect of her son relocating to the South. "If he decided to stay and play at San Diego State, and they're recruiting him heavily, I think that would be fine. But my husband thinks he needs to go away to grow up. He just feels going away is what he needs to do."

Perhaps Casey Clausen could convince Kolvacheck that Knoxville is a great place for a California kid to come into his own.

Editor's Note: See an in-depth feature on Richard Kolvacheck in the next issue of Rocky Top News.

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