Recruiting Profile: Bryan Randall
by Neal Williams
TSL Extra, Issue #7

Bryan Randall attended Virginia Techís spring football game April 21 along with a number of the Hokiesí other recruits.

He stood on the sidelines at Lane Stadium and took some time to scan the stands. It was nothing like heíll see this fall when Tech begins its 2001 season with a full house of 55,000 or so at every home game. The crowd for the spring game was about 18,000 Ė well short of capacity.

But it was just a spring game, not even really much of a game. And it was still more people than Randall had ever seen at any game in which heíd played at Bruton High in Williamsburg.

It gave him an idea of what he was in for when he enrolls at Tech and attempts to become the man to replace quarterback Michael Vick.

Vick left Tech two years early and was drafted No. 1 by the Atlanta Falcons on the same day as the Hokiesí spring game.

Someone has to be behind center Sept. 1 when Connecticut pays a visit.

"Itís kind of surprising when you see something like that," Randall said of the spring-game turnout. "Iíd never seen that many before and theyíre all rooting for the team youíre going to be playing for. You can tell how much they love football.

"It is a little pressure and itís fun at the same time. You know you have to get the job done."

On the January day when Vick officially declared for the National Football League draft, Tech associate head coach Billy Hite said Vickís decision was going to change a lot of lives.

Count Randallís among them. Playing with and learning under Vick was a major consideration in Randallís decision to attend Tech.

"I wanted to go to Tech and sit behind Vick and redshirt just like he did," Randall said. "I wanted to just get used to the atmosphere at the college level and study behind him. He had been there. I was sure I could learn a lot from him, different little stuff you need to know that you can learn from the quarterbacks in front of you. I just wanted to get in and get my feet wet."

Then Vick said Iím gone.

That decision didnít change the appeal of Tech for Randall. It merely changed the reasons for the appeal. Somebody floored it and everything lurched ahead at a much faster speed than Randall originally planned to travel.

"Now Iím more geared toward getting ready right now," Randall said. "Itís not as relaxed as it was before. Itís kind of, turn it on right now. You donít have time to sit back and get your feet wet as much.

"I donít see it as a negative at all. I see it as an opportunity, a great opportunity. I made my mind up to go in early when Vick decided to go. Theyíre talking about a true freshman maybe playing."

Randall will move to Blacksburg June 30, enroll in some summer school classes and begin preparation in earnest for the upcoming season.

He doesnít want to come off as cocky when he talks about his chances of being the Hokiesí No. 1 quarterback. Randall, a perfectly polite young man, is anything but brash. He just has the attitude he has to have, and he expects all five of the quarterback candidates to be thinking the same way.

Junior Grant Noel, who emerged as No. 1 after the spring, will come into preseason drills thinking the job is already his and he has to continue to perform to hold on to the spot. Redshirt freshman Jason Davis will come in thinking his improvement and spring game performance give him a legitimate chance.

Randall and fellow quarterback recruits Will Hunt and Chris Clifton will come in eager to show a true freshman can indeed run the show.

"Everybody going in trying to compete for the job has to think, ĎIím going to be the next Tech quarterback,í" Randall said. "Thatís how you push yourself, itís kind of like a goal now you want to achieve. Thatís as high as it can be. Iím going to work hard to get it. If it happens that I donít get it, so be it. But I am going to work my hardest."

Weíll never know if Vick could have played as a true freshman, because he didnít. Facts are facts and one fact is this: Few true freshman play anymore at the Division I level. The Hokies only used three true freshmen last season and only one of those Ė cornerback Eric Green Ė was a year removed from high school. Jim Davis (prep school) and Kevin Lewis (January enrollee) were two years removed from high school.

The college game is much faster, much more physical and much more cerebral. The typical high school playbook, even for an advanced prep team, reads like a comic book compared to a college teamís playbook.

On the night of a recent interview, Randall was out preparing for his upcoming prom. Many of Techís 2000 seniors were preparing for the NFL.

Physically and mentally, playing collegiate ball is a significant challenge. That said, Randall might have the right combination of gifts to make it happen even though heís young. He wonít turn 18 until Aug. 16, almost two weeks after fall drills begin.

"Bryan is very mature for his age," said Kyle Neve, Randallís football coach at Bruton. "The pressure is on him immediately. Bryan is used to pressure. If anybody has a chance to do it, he does. It would be rough for anybody, but if you had to have a formula for a kid to do it, heíd be it. He has the total package."

Randallís resume is indeed impressive. He played on both sides of the ball. In fact, he made first-team all-state as a safety as a senior and had to settle for second-team all-state on offense. He was the Group AA player of the year.

As a junior, Randall was the Group AA player of the year in basketball. A point guard, the 6-2, 205-pound Randall plans to play basketball at Tech as well.

"Iíve been playing basketball longer than football," Randall said. "I thought if I was going to excel in anything growing up it would have been basketball. But football is my main sport now."

Said Neve, "Heís very good at basketball. Heís strong and gifted physically and he can just outmatch people."

Randall as a junior became the first player in Virginia prep history to rush and pass for more than 1,000 yards in a season. He did it again as a senior. "What makes that more amazing," Neve said, "is that he also had 147 tackles (as a senior). He never comes off the field."

To top it off, Randall also added track to his list this year, mostly so he could work on his speed. And yet heís strong enough to be one of Brutonís weight men.

Away from athletics, Randall is in the National Honor Society and is president of the youth choir at New Zion Baptist Church in Williamsburg.

"As far as what Iíve seen over the past four years, the young man is an outstanding athlete and an outstanding student," said Littleton Parker, who coaches football at Southampton High. "The young man is a class individual. Heís the same way in defeat as he is when he wins.

"By far, at least the past two years, he was the best athlete in this district and perhaps one of the better ones in the state. Itís unbelievable some of the things he does on the football field and the basketball court."

Randall is lifting weights as well as running track this spring. He says heís a "pretty decent" lifter and heís looking forward to getting into strength coach Mike Gentryís program full time.

The mental adjustment, he thinks, will be a bigger test than the physical. "Iím not a small guy and Iím going to get stronger being with Coach Gentry," Randall said. "You have to make sure youíre smart enough to play that game. It moves a lot faster and it is a lot more complicated. In high school, you donít really read too many defenses. They donít throw a whole lot at you.

"I see this as a great challenge. Iím a competitor and I compete to win. Iím going to do whatever I can possibly do to be prepared, be at the peak of where I need to be. At the college level, there are so many great players. The guys who work hard and prepare the best are the ones who turn into the really great players."

Neve says Randallís best assets arenít centered around numbers.

"The intangibles," he said, "like leadership. He just makes everybody in the huddle better. They believe in him. Heís not a yeller. Heís quiet and confident. He has a bunch of things you canít coach, you either have them or you donít."

Parker thinks his former rival can make the transition smoothly.

"I think heís physically ready and heís further ahead mentally than most high school seniors," Parker said. "It is definitely a different ballgame, no doubt about that. But he is very capable. On both sides of the football."

Tech is set at safety. Quarterback is where thereís a huge hole.

"Thatís all you hear living around here. ĎI canít wait for you to get down to Tech, Iím excited for you,í" Randall said.

Randall wore No. 5 in high school (No. 20 for basketball). Thatís the current number of senior rover Kevin McCadam. Randall says heíll wear "4" in 2001 and consider switching to "5" the following season.

He would not, he insisted, wear Vickís No. 7, even if that was his old number.

"I think if you took No. 7, youíd put a lot of unneeded pressure on yourself," Randall said. "People would look at you and say, ĎHeís wearing Vickís number. Does he play like Vick?í

"There will be enough comparisons to Vick. You donít need any extra."

 

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