Richardson waiting to contribute

Shaquille Richardson missed the spring due to a shoulder injury, but there is a good chance he will still make a major impact this season.

Every year, it seems that Arizona finds a player that comes out of virtually nowhere to make an impact. Last season, the secondary struggled with performance as well as injuries and many players were called upon to step their respective games up. One such player that did so is cornerback Shaquille Richardson.

Originally committed to play football at UCLA, Richardson experienced some off-the-field issues that eventually forced him elsewhere before the start of the 2010 season. That's when head coach Mike Stoops and his staff came in and swept the talented defensive back up. A player that was supposed to play for the rival Bruins, Richardson was a special gift at the beginning of fall camp in 2010.

It was thought that Richardson would have a long climb up the depth chart due to his late arrival, but he ended up playing so well in practice that he earned his way onto the field early in the season.

Richardson ultimately collected two interceptions and Pac-10 defensive player of the week honors on the road against Washington State. With a successful freshman campaign under his belt, Richardson is looking forward to his time on the field as a sophomore. Through spring camp, he has kept his spirits high while dealing with a bum shoulder.

"I'm hanging good," Richardson said. "I'm injured right now, so I am doing as much as I can."

Richardson received plenty of reps during his freshman season, but struggled at times the way a typical freshman would. Entering his sophomore season, the Arizona cornerback is better prepared for what's ahead and is taking on new roles as he becomes more experienced.

"I am a lot more comfortable," Richardson said. "I am starting to learn the nickel position too. That's more they put on my plate, so I am just getting into that."

While Richardson can't make much of an impact on the field during the spring session, he is taking this time learning the playbook and working hard in other ways off the field.

"I'm doing as much as I can," Richardson said. "Seeing other people do well makes me work harder in the stuff that I am doing. So, I am just working hard and trying to make sure I get all of the mental stuff down since I am not out there."

A successful debut season like Richardson had usually raises the expectations set out for him by coaches and fans alike, but does he feel any extra pressure from playing well as a true freshman?

"Yeah," Richardson said. "But I like pressure."

The defensive backfield is an area cluttered with experience and talent. Richardson understands that there are many players that have the ability to make an impact in the upcoming campaign.

The competition among the defensive backs is something Richardson believes will make everyone put forth more effort and ultimately get better.

"The competition makes me work even harder because I want to play," Richardson said. "If you just keep working hard, it makes everyone else work hard."

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