Coaches can’t get handle on Randle-El

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Former Iowa Hawkeye Tim Dwight is gone from the Big Ten Conference and is doing quite well in the NFL, but coach Hayden Fry says Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El is the next best thing.
Although the Hoosiers are 2-3 overall, 0-2 Big Ten, Fry said Randle El has made the Hoosiers, who play host to Iowa on Saturday, one of the most dangerous and exciting teams in the conference.
Although he suffered a slight concussion in Indiana’s 38-31 double-overtime loss to Michigan State last Saturday, Randle El is expected to play against the Hawkeyes (3-3 overall, 2-1 Big Ten), which worries Fry.
“He’s truly special,” Fry said, using the same words he used to describe Dwight when he played at Iowa and became the team’s all-time leading receiver while leading the nation in punt returns to earn first-team All-America honors.
Dwight is now making his mark as a punt returner and all-purpose player for the Atlanta Falcons.
“This kid is so similar,” Fry said. “The great thing about this kid is he’s taking the ball every snap. He’s going to make something happen.”
Saturday’s contest will be the Hoosiers’ homecoming, yet only 37,000 fans are expected at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, which seats 52,354 fans.
“If I were a fan … I can’t believe they’re having homecoming over there and they anticipate 37,000 people,” Fry said. “I’m telling you now, those people over there are crazy if they don’t get out and watch that young man.”
Randle El, who also plays basketball for Indiana coach Bob Knight and was a 14th-round selection of the Chicago Cubs in the 1997 Major League Baseball draft, ranks among the leaders in most of the conference’s statistics.
He has the Hoosiers third in the league in total offense, averaging 443 yards a game, fourth in passing and third in scoring.
Randle El has completed 63 of 119 passes for 1,025 yards and four touchdowns and leads the Hoosiers in total offense, averaging 279 yards a game.
In his first start against Western Michigan in the season opener, Randle El missed only seven of 29 passes and threw for 385 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 23 times for 82 yards and three more scores as the Hoosiers won 45-30.
He accumulated 467 yards of total offense to set a school record, which also was ninth best in Big Ten history.
“He was like trying to catch a 180-pound bass,” Western Michigan coach Gary Darnell remarked afterward.
Fry is now Randle El’s biggest booster.
“He’s kind of like I was talking about Tim Dwight. He was worth the price of admission. Come watch this kid play,” Fry said. “I’ve only had a couple players like that in all my coaching.”
The Hawkeyes are having a devil of a time preparing for Randle El and the Indiana attack, Fry said.
“We can’t impersonate (him) at all,” Fry said of Randle El.