Tuesday, January 25, 2011

the recruit: Clifton Richardson

Name: Clifton Richardson
Position: RB
Hometown: Newport News
School: Menchville
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 195

ESPN: 80; four stars; #24 ATH; US #142
Rivals: 5.8; four stars; #20 RB; US #238; VA #6
Scout: three stars; #47 WR

Offers: Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Miami, South Carolina, Maryland, West Virginia, NC State, Louisville, East Carolina

Clifton Richardson was a big-time guy last spring. Lots of early offers, probably plenty more coming if he'd done the whole recruiting banquet circuit - the camps, the junior days, everything. Richardson's March commitment was the eye-opener: here this guy was going to have his pick of any school in the mid-Atlantic and plenty outside it, and he jumped on UVA with a quickness usually seen only at Texas when the Longhorns go "we'll take you and you and you...."

So why wait this long for the profile? Richardson committed, yes, and happily informed everyone, only to put the brakes on a little while later. Or specifically, his father did. You really can't blame him: Clifton Jr. was every bit the teenager with V-shaped stars in his eyes during the entire visit, and Senior thought his son would be better served checking out his options before he was sure of what he wanted. Not wanting to back out of his word, they characterized it as a soft commitment, and Clifton would be taking more visits to other schools, at the very least for comparison's sake.

None of those visits ever materialized. Richardson's got a major-league loyalty streak, which makes him an easy guy to root for. Menchville is a historically terrible team and they were terrible again this year. Richardson never won any more or less than two games a season there, and he could have transferred to a different school where there's a bit more exposure. Didn't happen. Neither did any visits to any schools other than UVA - where Richardson showed up frequently throughout the summer. Every so often he'd talk about visiting this or that school, and never did. Finally in September he "solidified" his commitment, but the way things went down, that was just semantics: Richardson was a Hoo from the moment he told Mike London so.

Being far and away the best athlete on his team, Richardson played what they all play: quarterback. But there's no indication of such at UVA; he'll be a running back from day one. (Didn't stop Scout from evaluating him as a wide receiver. I swear they are terrible at position slotting. Still, even that's encouraging: all his minuses are receiver-centric and his plusses are RB-related.) Other reports are breathlessly positive. His coach claims he has "more potential than Vic Hall." ESPN is all slobbery. Richardson is big, strong, fast, and he'll be at UVA at over 200 pounds. Couldn't be brought down by just one guy in high school.

The only downside to all this is that Richardson is one of the verbals in this class that I wouldn't give a 100% chance of making it to the fall without having to prep. Don't get me wrong: he probably will. It's just that....every so often you read something that suggests it might be an issue, and this is UVA dammit - Clifton Richardson not quite qualifying (or having us on pins and needles in the spring as he works on a few final requirements) after falling in love with the program and being one of our biggest recruiters all year, that would be just the sort of thing that the football gods like to do to UVA.

That's because not only can Richardson make an impact starting this fall, he happens to be one of my favorite recruits in this class. There are just four running backs on the roster this spring, and we lost two of the top three from 2010 to graduation. That leaves Perry Jones, Torrey Mack, and two redshirt freshmen. Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd are still pretty much unknown quantities, Jones is too small to be a 30-carry guy, and Mack has yet to show he's capable of enough consistency to be a feature back. Richardson is one of the most athletically gifted players to show up at UVA in a while; there's a great chance he plays in September.

As for that favorite recruit thing, well, there's that loyalty bit, and it so happens that a tremendously exciting running back is my favorite position on the football field, so he's got that going for him too. But if this doesn't make you go "ohmygod awwwwwwww" then you are either a zombie or a Terrapin. (See also the link about Vic Hall.) It adds up to make Clifton Richardson both one of the most exciting and most rootable recruits UVA's ever had.

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