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Published: Tuesday, 3/30/2004

Rockets Randolph has guarded optimism about the draft

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Darric Randolph Darric Randolph
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It seems like a fairly modest goal for a college graduate. Five months from now, Darric Randolph wants to have his name on a locker, someplace in the United States.

His only stipulation is that it has to be on a locker located in a city with a team that plays in NFL. And that name on the locker needs to be engraved, not slapped on with tape.

The University of Toledo offensive lineman is making an unexpected push to play in the NFL, and there appear to be parties interested in his services.

“It s a little bit of a surprise, but there are quite few teams that have at least expressed an interest in me so far,” Randolph said. “But you never really know where it will all lead.”

Randolph, who expects to graduate in May with a degree in Cyber-Art, caught the attention of NFL scouts at a recent pro day held at UT as a showcase for prospective talent. Scouts from the Colts, Lions, Texans, Browns, Jaguars, Seahawks, Panthers, Packers, 49ers, and Giants were on hand for the event.

“I ve been told that my stock rose considerably that day, since a lot of the scouts who came there didn t know a lot about me,” Randolph said. “Up to that point, I was not a high profile player, but the pro day gave them a chance to look at me individually and evaluate my skills.”

For the past two seasons, Randolph was a starter at guard on a Toledo offense that was fifth in the nation in total offense in 2002 (472.2 yards per game) and ninth last season (462.8). His agent, Ron Todd, said offensive guard is one of the toughest positions to rate since there are not many stats directly linked to it.

“You don t have the hard numbers on an offensive lineman - the most familiar stats just aren t there,” Todd said. “You have to look at what he did to help his team move the football, or to protect his quarterback. Beyond that, the scouts look at speed, strength, quickness, agility, and technique.”

Randolph was part of a UT offensive line that allowed just 10 sacks in the 2003 season, leading the nation in that category.

“Darric is very powerful, strong, and extremely tough,” said Joe Gilbert, Randolph s offensive line coach at UT who is now at Central Florida. “He is a great competitor who will not back down. We ran power behind Darric every time.”

Since UT s season ended four months ago, the 6-4 Randolph has been working with a personal trainer and knocked his weight down from 345 to about 330.

Even at 333 pounds on UT s pro day, Randolph ran a better 40-yard dash than 10 of the college guards who worked out at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Todd said, and he was heavier than all but one.

“The scouts are telling me they like his footwork and his athletic ability, and that they thought he looked real good for a guy his size,” Todd said.

The various NFL rating services have Randolph listed as somewhere around the 20th-best offensive guard in the country, and he is projected to go in the sixth or seventh round in the draft, or at least get an opportunity as a free agent.

“I have taken in all of the constructive criticism I can get, in order to perfect my technique and put myself in position to make a team,” Randolph said. “The pro guys say that the type of offense we run at Toledo is pretty advanced, and that a lot of the NFL teams use similar type blocking schemes.

“That should help me when it comes time for them to decide who they want.”

At Toledo, Randolph sat out 1999 as a redshirt, and did not play in any games in the 2000 season. He earned two starts in 2001, and was a starter in all 14 games the next year when the Rockets won a second straight MAC West title, and again last season.

Todd calls Randolph, a product of Benton Harbor, Mich., a potential sleeper in the upcoming draft.

“The NFL scouts are always looking for potential, and they think Darric has more than his share,” Todd said. “Some of them are telling me he has everything it takes to be a great guard in the pros. His best football hasn t got here yet.”

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.


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