30 Minutes with Richard Kovalcheck, part II

Richard Kovalcheck recently transferred from the University of Arizona to Vanderbilt in an historic case involving a new NCAA rule. Kovalcheck has two years of collegiate eligibility left, and he has completed the requirements for an undergraduate degree.

Since he is enrolled in graduate school in a program not offered at his previous school, he is immediately eligible to play for his new school. This rule may be rescinded soon, so he could be the answer to a future trivia question.

In part one of this interview, Kovalcheck talked about how he made his decision to transfer to Vanderbilt and what he is doing this summer to make the best of his new situation. Today, in part two, he talks about his abilities and how now being fully recovered from back surgery should help improve his game.

VandyMania.com: What do you think you need to improve upon to become the player you think you are capable of becoming?

Richard Kovalcheck: I've been working on everything trying to improve in every way. I need the right situation and the right opportunity. I am working hard, and this is the first opportunity I've had to be 100% healthy with the chance to be light on my feet. I'm excited about getting my speed up and being light on my feet.

VM: Speaking of your health, how does your back feel compared to last season, and how much did it affect your play in 2005?

RK: My back feels great; I have no problems. Last year, the surgery didn't really hamper my ability, but it felt different—not normal. Whenever you have surgery, it just takes time to loosen up and feel really good.

VM: How would you describe your running ability? Have you had any experience running the option?

RK: I haven't really run the option, and the speed issue is the thing I need to work on most. I can get my speed up; that's an element I'm trying to work into my game. I haven't really had a chance to work on speed in the last two years because of problems with my back. Last season, I worked on getting my back stronger, and I never really got a chance to go out there and do sprints and leg stretching exercises; I missed all the drills that help you become more agile.

Since I have been here, I've been doing lots of running and jumping rope, just trying to get more agile. I'm excited about the chance to be strong and fast for this season.

VM: Looking at the stat sheet of your career so far, you appeared to save your best in 2005 against the then number one team and two-time defending national champion Southern California Trojans. Vanderbilt's first two games in 2006 are both on the road against Michigan and Alabama. Taking the experience you gained from playing against Southern Cal, how do you think that has prepared you to open up the season with a new team and possibly starting against two of the top defenses in college football?

RK: I started 11 games at Arizona, and eight of those games were against top 25 teams. That gave me great experience playing against quality teams in great stadiums with loud environments. Concerning the experience of playing against USC two years in a row at their house (Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum), when you're there, you can feel you are playing against the number one team in the nation. That's some atmosphere!

Playing at Michigan and Alabama is a completely different experience. I just think that I'm lucky to get the opportunity to get the experience of playing in another part of the country against teams from different conferences.

VM: Have you talked with any of Vandy's current receivers and have you had a chance to throw the football with them?

RK: I've met them all and have been throwing passes to them three times a week. I've been hanging out with them all the time. They are both good receivers and good guys. Everybody I've met, I like a lot.

Richard Kovalcheck is an excellent addition to the Commodore football program. He is quite mature and intelligent, two things vital to the success of a good collegiate quarterback. Having the experience of starting in 11 games in a BCS conference means Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson has the comfort of knowing he can opt to place a seasoned signal caller into the game in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and feel confident he is not throwing a young, inexperienced player to the Wolverines.

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