HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Doc Holliday is the first to admit that Rakeem Cato should never have started as a true freshman. But the scrawny kid from Miami won the starting job having been the with the program just a few weeks before he took his first snaps as a college quarterback against WVU.
Now, going into his third season as The Herd’s starter, Cato has the chance to be a special player. His physical development has been well documented and his work in the weight room has clearly improved his presence in the pocket.
“He’s making throws now at the end of practice on whatever day of doubles, that a year ago he may not have been able to make that throw,” said offensive coordinator Bill Legg. “He’s worked extremely hard on his individual game from a standpoint of improving his strength, which has improved his quickness, his speed and his arm.”
In last week’s scrimmage, Cato completed 13-of-21 attempts for 141 yards. As a junior he is now able to deliver the ball on a rope and has the ability to get the deep ball down the field with more accuracy.
More impressive than the improvements in measurable categories such as bench press, squat and other lifts has been his maturation as a leader and his grasp on The Herd’s playbook. Cato is not shy about getting in teammates’ faces when receivers run a wrong route, the line misses a block or the backs go the wrong direction. Cato knows where everybody should be on every play. Legg says Cato now has a complete grasp on the scheme and they want to accomplish.
“There’s times that he turns and he’s about to give a signal to the box and I’ve already called it. He has an extremely high football IQ,” said Legg.
Cato has reached a point that coaches hope all players achieve, he’s no longer thinking about defensive alignments, coverages and hot reads. He’s now reading the defense and reacting. Decisions that he had to think about last season are now second nature.
“Smarter, more decisive, understands how I think,” is how Legg now describes his quarterback. “I understand how he thinks and there’s times he’ll check to something that I’m sitting there going ‘that’s exactly what I wanted him to do.”
Cato’s numbers in 2012 speak for themselves but Legg thinks Cato can be better than last year.
” You start putting all that stuff together and now he’s taken on the mantra of teacher/mentor and leader. The kid’s got a chance to be really special.”