Richard Kovalcheck Inspecting Options

Twenty-two hours after his return from Big Orange Country and two hours before his in-home visit from Arizona head coach John Mackovic, San Diego St. Augustine quarterback Richard Kovalcheck is a young man torn between two colleges.

His visit to Knoxville was great, but so is the distance from his southern California home. The opportunity at Tennessee is outstanding, but so is the competition. UT's football tradition and fan base are as deep as its pressures and expectations are high.

Conversely, Arizona is building a program in the image of its head coach, a noted offensive strategist who's looking for a quarterback to entrust the future of the Wildcats air attack. Arizona is a second tier Pac 10 team hoping close the gap on the lead pack.

"One of the major things about football at Tennessee is that it's real established," Kovalcheck said when asked to contrast the programs. "You pretty much know that you're going into the season trying to win championships. Arizona has a new coach and they're trying to build the program. It's a challenge at both places."

Kovalcheck, 6-3, 215, rates the educational opportunities as equal and he likes the people he met at each campus.

"The people at both places were just really cool," he said. "They were really nice and stuff, so I had a real good feeling from people at both places."

Kovalcheck 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 through seven complete games — before his season-ending injury.

As a senior, Kovalcheck has connected on 60 percent of his passes for over 2,300 yards and 16 touchdowns, despite coming back from knee surgery and playing most of the season with a broken little finger on his passing hand that required a splint. The Saints posted a 9-3-1 mark, losing in the San Diego County Division-3 Championship game.

Over his career, Kovalcheck has completed over 60 percent of his pass attempts for over 6,800 yards and 69 touchdowns with only 18 interceptions.

A student of the game, who has a 3.65 gpa and scored a 1320 on his SAT, Kovalcheck likes the challenge of running Tennessee's complex offensive system.

"I like the system a lot," he said. "It gives the quarterback a lot of control at the line of scrimmage. I think it would be fun."

Kovalcheck, who was hosted fellow Californian Casey Clausen, was excited about the prospect of playing in front of so many fans but admits the distance between Knoxville and his San Diego home is something he's weighing carefully.

"I think it's great to play in front of that many people and have that type of support," he said. "The distance is something that I'm thinking about. The distance is so far away and it's like totally moving everything. I'm kind of close to my friends and family so that's something I'm definitely thinking about."

Originally, Kovalcheck planned to wait until Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer makes his in-home visit in January before deciding, however he may put his time frame on fast forward.

"I don't know if I'll be able to take my time because Arizona might be pressed," he said. "Tennessee didn't pressure me at all about making a decision."

Another factor pushing Kovalcheck is his recent history. He waited on making a commitment to Notre Dame in September and to Colorado in October and saw both schools commit other QB prospects while rescinding their offers to him.

"I wasn't going to rush it at all," he said of the UT-UA decision, "but I talked to one of my coaches and he thought there is nothing I'm going to know in three weeks that I don't know now, so he thought it was just a matter of making that commitment."

And if Kovalcheck had to make that decision now, his choice would depend on which minute you ask him to choose.

"I don't know if I'm leaning, but it changes a lot" he said. "I'll be thinking about Arizona and then I'll start thinking about Tennessee."

It's a cinch coaches at both programs are thinking about Kovalcheck, too.


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