Written by Ryan Wright
Put a breakout season mixed in with a senior year, and you have what quarterback Rand Jensen (6-0, 195) is doing for American Leadership Academy this season. Jensen got snaps on the field in 2018 throwing for 894 yards with 10 scores and rushed for 120 yards off 19 totes with another touchdown in stats posted through four game, but this season his is completing passes at a high 67 percent rate covering 2,381 yards with 39 touchdowns against just four picks. When he has decided to run, he has moved the chains 162 yards downfield off 26 carries. The translated work on the field, Jensen’s Patriots squad is 9-1 on the year read to do battle Friday night against Payson in the opening round of Arizona’s 3 playoffs.
In an RNG exclusive interview partnered with QB Hit List, I got a few minutes in with Jensen before his team embarked on their quest for a 3A trophy for a season update conversation.
Rand, you throw a really nice ball. With your release, the ball comes out clean and you can throw with touch and zip. What did you work on over the offseason and on into the season with your mechanics and form?
“Me and my coach, we would train four days a week at night from 7:00 to 9:30-10:00. We pounded it hard working on the mechanics of the position along with my arm strength and accuracy.”
Working out of the Spread, you do a great job of moving around in the pocket and throwing on the run if needed. How have you developed those skills over time that has translated in games?
“That part comes naturally for me. Being an athlete, I keep my eyes downfield looking for the open receiver. It is a feel thing for me. I feel the defense around me and roll out. I do work on pocket evasion drills with my coach, that plays a big role as well.”
Another key part of your game is the high rate at which you are completing passes (67) and your touchdown to interception ratio (39/4). I attribute that to a lot of different positives with your game, what do you attribute those high marks to in your talents?
“This comes down to knowing your craft, making the reads, and seeing the defense. The game slows down if you prepare right. It comes easy when you see it if you are prepared. Preparing during the week and knowing your craft is the biggest thing for me.”
How have you taken your game to another level this season?
“The mental parts of my game and knowing my craft while tying it to the mechanics of throwing within the game have improved. Watching film, knowing defenses and knowing my reads have improved a lot this season as well.”
What do you feel sets you apart from other quarterbacks in the mental part of the game?
“The countless hours of time in the classroom. I have one of the best coaches in the state if not the best coach. He has been a great mentor for me teaching me the craft. He has made me better at everything including going over my reads and helping me outsmart the defense.”
Your ability to run the ball if needed cannot be undersold, are there any other aspects of your game that might get overlooked?
“My athleticism. I have not been running a lot this year. My downfield throws outside the pocket my get overlooked and my ability to carry the ball. When I get in the open-field I am dangerous.”
This season, in which contest did you turn in your top performance?
“My best game this season was either our game against Yuma Catholic or Benjamin Franklin. Against Yuma, I threw six touchdown passes and for 350 yards. I balled with my teammates in that one. Against Ben Franklin, that was No. 1 vs. No. 2. It was a dogfight (won 26-14). I led the team well in that one and I was making the big important plays.”
Rolling into recruiting. I know you have an offer from Jacksonville, which schools are showing interest?
“Southern Utah, they are a big one showing lots of interest, NAU (Northern Arizona), Sac (Sacramento) State, Weber State, UCLA is showing some, Texas State, and Eastern Washington. Arizona State and BYU are showing a little bit of interest.”
Have you visited any schools recently?
“Yes. I have been to Weber State, NAU, and Southern Utah.”
How did the Southern Utah trip go?
“It went really well. The people there were really warm towards me and showing lots of interest. They have been good to me. I like their program. That would be a good place to be in college.”
And NAU, how did that go?
“It was awesome. I have had lots of contact with Coach (Aaron) Pflugrad (OC). I was there this summer for camps and it went really well on this last visit. We talked about my season. They were warm to me with a good feel. NAU is a place I could call home.”
Nice. Last couple of questions. The team was on a roll all season until facing Florence on Oct. 25 (31-28). No one likes to lose, but finding the silver lining, how will that setback help make the Patriots a better playoff team?
“I think the loss was good for us. We came in overconfident. We were missing some starters, but at that time we started to relax and slow down. That was a good wake up call to be at our best in every game.”
After beating Coolidge last week, you guys open with Payson (8-2) on Friday in the playoffs. What are you expecting from the Longhorns defense?
“They have nine starters playing both ways, the goal is to tire them out. We need to score fast and quick and keep them on their heels. Their defensive line is big. If we protect, we should have time to throw. We are excited going into this game.”
Rand, it was great getting time in with you today. Wish you and the team luck in the playoffs.
Photo credit: Rand Jensen