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Arizona football: Wildcats stumble on K’Hari Lane late in recruiting process

Will the overlooked recruit do big things in Tucson?

Arizona QB coach Rod Smith chews on a towel during a 2016 fall practice
Jason Bartel

“Oh Lord, it was after Signing Day.”

Not usually what you hear from a coach when you ask them when the first time they saw film of one of their quarterback recruits, but that’s exactly how Arizona Wildcats quarterbacks coach Rod Smith reacted when asked about K’Hari Lane.

Arizona had two quarterbacks lined up in their 2017 recruiting class for the longest time — Rhett Rodriguez and Braxton Burmeister — but at the last possible second, early enrollee Burmeister bailed for Oregon, leaving the Wildcats scrambling.

“We didn’t do a lot with quarterbacks until we had some movement go on,” Smith said referrencing the Burmeister situation. “It was a mad dash like ‘Ok who’s out there that’s still available, who’s left’ and talked to guys to see who had interest.”

“It just happened to work out. K’Hari was available at the time.”

Lane has been an interesting story, posting 56 TDs to just two interceptions, but his only offer prior to Arizona was Grambling State.

“I thought he was completely overlooked,” Rich Rodriguez said about his late signee. “A little small school in a small town in Georgia and led his team to great success. I just liked his demeanor when we met. We were fortunate to get him.”

“I don’t know,” Smith admitted when thinking about why Lane was overlooked by every major school. “He was a kid we stumbled on late to be honest with you. Didn’t really know anything about him until we put his film on, watched him, and saw he’s a pretty good football player.”

On 247Sports, Lane is listed at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, but Smith thought maybe his size was the reason no schools picked him up sooner.

“Some quarterbacks aren’t a certain height for guys, and that just turns ‘em off,” explained Smith. “Some aren’t a certain size and that turns ‘em off, so maybe that’s what it was. Maybe it’s because he’s from a small town stuck away in Georgia. I don’t know, but we were fortunate enough to see him and move on him.”

U of A offered Lane when he was on campus visiting at the beginning of spring ball.

“Got a chance to sit down and talk ball with him,” Smith said of what he did with Lane on that official visit. “Talked technique, talked certain things about the position and about our offense with how we do things with the quarterback position. He’s a pretty sharp kid. He’s got a pretty good grasp because he comes from a spread-type system.”

“He’s a very polite kid,” added Smith about what stood out about Lane in those meetings. “Quiet but you could tell he has a confidence about him. He was a bright-eyed kid, so when we talked to him he looked you in the eye — looked at you man to man — he took things in and you could just tell he got it. He grasped it. He understands what you’re trying to relay to him. Mom was very nice, good family, good kid.”

So what makes Lane a prospect that Arizona can use down the road?

“K’Hari is a very skillful passer when you watch his film,” Coach Smith said of Lane’s strengths. “The kid can flat-out throw it. His numbers speak for themselves in a very good state of high school football. He’s very accurate and can make every throw you need a quarterback to make. He’s definitely going to be a good prospect coming in.”

When looking at quarterbacks, everyone wants to make a comparison to another quarterback, and Coach Smith came up with a former Wildcat that Lane might look like eventually.

“You hate to compare guys because everybody’s a little bit different, but he can throw it man,” Smith said. “He can flat-out whip it. He’s Matt Scott-ish in terms of arm strength and throwing the football. He’s probably close to him as far as throwing it.”

You can judge for yourself if Lane whips it like Matt Scott in his senior year highlights.