I'd like to personally welcome Andy Ventura, our newest contributor here at the Ralphie Report. Andy is going to be helping us to preview the games each week and investigate some more in-depth topics like the one below. You can follow him on Twitter @RalphieRepAndy. Please give Andy a big TRR welcome aboard!
The University of Colorado is amongst the Top 25 Division I FBS schools for all-time wins, yet it has only seen six-1000 yard receiving seasons in 123 years of football. The year 2003 was the last time the Buffs saw a 1,000 yard receiver. Since then, Colorado has been pretty anemic at receiver due to many factors, from quarterback play to scheme, but the overriding factor has been a lack of talent at the wide receiver position. In 2013, Colorado football is finally seeing that lack of talent streak down the field in the form of #6 Paul Richardson.
Richardson came to Colorado due to a mistake on his own part. Richardson was dismissed from the UCLA program in June 2010 and shortly after he committed to Colorado. He finished 2010 and 2011 with average numbers for a receiver due to youth and inexperience (first half of 2010 season) and injury (2nd half of 2011 season) but his performance against Cal (11 catches for 284 yards and 2 TDs), coupled with the teams 2012 hopes made Richardson one of the most exciting juniors to watch for the 2012 season. Unfortunately, a torn ACL injury in spring drills ended many of Richardson's hopes of being amongst the top receivers in the nation and the teams hopes of him showcasing that ability. He rehabbed tirelessly and there was talk of his availability midway through the 2012 season. However, former coach Jon Embree and Richardson made a very wise and easy decision during a lost year for the Buffs and let him spend the remainder of the season practicing and using the redshirt available to him.
In spring camp 2013 Richardson was once again the big name on the team with big expectations for his year with a new offensive scheme and coaching staff led by new Head Coach Mike MacIntyre. Richardson had a strong spring camp that culminated with big play after big play in a performance that fans had hoped and expected to see. Fall camp allowed Richardson to see how highly his peers and the new staff thought of him when he was named a Captain.
Hearing and seeing Richardson speak before the season, you saw an excited, fast talking (a la John Moschitta, the Micro Machine Man from the 80s and 90s), confident and matured young man ready to showcase his talents fully and without anything in the way. He also appeared humbled from the experiences he had seen and was finally showcase his talents after 17 months without true competition.
He started the 2013 season with 73 receptions, 1,069 yards receiving and 11 TD receptions putting him 21st on the all-time receiving yards and 25th on all-time receptions leaders list and tied with a group of receivers amongst Top 10 in touchdown receptions in Colorado history. In his first two games this year, he had 10 and 11 catches and 208 and 209 yards respectively with two TD receptions in each. Through 4 games Richardson has 31 receptions and 621 receiving yards with 5 TD receptions. He has moved from 21st to eighth on Colorado's all-time receiving yardage list with 1,690 yards. The next goal in sight is the 2,000 yard receiving mark. He's also is tied for 10th all-time with 104 career receptions and has moved into 5th place on the touchdown receptions list with 16 total.
Richardson has set these marks in only 25 games with many of them being unproductive due to lack of playing time while learning the system/college game as a freshman or fighting the injury bug the second half of his sophomore year. Colorado has only had a receiver go over 200 yards in a game five times with Richardson now accounting for three of those. It has also only seen double digit receptions 11 times with Richardson now accounting for 4 of those. Each week Richardson's name is added to another part of CUs extensive record book or moved up another list.
Richardson's on-pace numbers are inflated by two huge weeks, but it's within reason to believe he can average 90 yards receiving, 6 receptions and 3/4 a TD a game in the next 8 games. Those numbers would give him 1,340 yards receiving, 79 receptions and 11 touchdowns. Every one of those categories would be a season record in Colorado football history, with the yardage being nearly 200 yards greater than any previous Buffs receiver. If he reaches those numbers, it would put Richardson's career totals at 3rd overall in receptions, 5th overall in receiving yards and tied for first for receiving touchdowns. His name would be amongst Michael Westbrook, Rae Carruth, Scotty McKnight and Charles E. Johnson. Westbrook, Carruth, Charles E. Johnson and Mike Pritchard are mentioned amongst the greatest Buffs wide receivers of all-time. Is Paul Richardson better than all of them?
He hasn't had the advantage that those guys had. Every one of those guys played with a quarterback that was amongst the Top 10 college QB at his position, had a Top 10 college running back "toting the rock" and were on Top 25 football teams year-in, year-out. If Richardson stays for the 2014 season and has a year similar to what he should finish with this year, he would most likely be Colorado's only 3,000 yard career receiver and only second receiver to have 200+ catches, along with McKnight.
These are reasons why Richardson is the best wide receiver to ever wear the Black and Gold for the University of Colorado and every more reason why Richardson should make 2013 his last season with the Buffaloes. He was a buzz on the national radar as a potential mid-round draft pick before the season began but after the first 1/3 of the 2013 season, Richardson is now brightly shining amongst the top receiving prospects for 2014's NFL Draft.
The things that could draw Richardson back to Boulder in fall 2014 are:
- Obliterating all Colorado receiving records
- Proving to scouts his knee is fully heeled and has taken two years of pounding (yes there will be doubts whether he leaves after the 2013 or 2014 NFL Season
- Potentially helping this team turn into a Top 25 program again
However, the reasons for Richardson to take his game to the next level in 2014 are much larger:
- Richardson will have earned his degree by the end of the school year
- His name will be amongst the top receivers in school history
- He has seen that a season ending injury can happen at any time
- Ability to showcase his talent on a bigger stage which is his ultimate goal
- The money of the NFL and unpredictability of the future
Should Richardson turn pro the main questions will be his health and his lack of size (170-175 lbs is diminutive for a wide receiver at the pro level). Positives are his ability to weave through defenders, bend his body to make amazing catches, his speed and solid height. He has work to do to complete the season, but if he has a couple more 150+ yard performances and averages the numbers noted above and he can show high 4.3 to low 4.4 40-time then he most likely would be a guy that could go as high as late first round to early 4th round, at worse, in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Richardson will do what he's been doing, continue to focus on the season and then talk with those he trusts and believes in and then should do what's right for himself. It is his decision and Buffs fans should appreciate the greatness they are witnessing and see how it plays out. He owes the University nothing more. He has put four years in and will have earned his degree, played his heart out for three different coaches and proven to be a great young man and will be a proud alum of both the University of Colorado and the football program.