Jason Ivester

Arkansas Razorbacks DB Kevin Richardson excited for return from injury

Arkansas' Kevin Richardson was out last season with an injury, but is back this year. He talks about the new defense, Paul Rhoads and much more.

Kevin Richardson came to Arkansas as a walk-on from Jacksonville (Ark.) High School capable of playing wide receiver or defensive back. Richardson ended up in the secondary and has had a good career with the Hogs.

Richardson had a very good sophomore season in 2015 when he had 44 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups. Richardson played in all 13 games in both 2014 and 2015 with five starts his sophomore year. This spring, Richardson is back. How does it feel?

"It's been feeling great to be able to go back out there with the guys and try to bring the energy that I usually try to bring," Richardson said. "To see the improvement the guys have brought since I've been off the field, it's really amazing to see those guys come along.

"I like the scheme we're going through. It's a nice fit. A lot of guys are really starting to show the true talent they have with the scheme that we're in. I'm excited to see what we're going to do in the fall."

This year, Paul Rhoads goes from Richardson's position coach only to defensive coordinator. He will still coach the secondary though. How has the defense liked having Rhoads as its coordinator?

"I really think the guys loved the concept whenever Coach B announced it to us in the team meeting," Richardson said. "Everybody got excited, got up and clapped for him and Coach Rhoads seemed like he was really excited about it. He was so excited.

"He wasn't prepared to speak, but he came down there and gave a speech and everybody, even the offensive players, was talking about how moved they were by the speech. We love the energy he has. I'm pretty sure the whole defense loves it now."

While it seems like the move to the 3-4 and promotion of Rhoads has gone over well with the defensive players, but how does this new scheme fit you?

"I'm pretty much doing the same thing," Richardson said. "I'm a role player wherever I fit, I'm going to play it. I feel like the scheme that we are in, it's going to make a lot of plays for everybody. So it's not just me, it fits well as a defense for the type of players that we have."

Few players have represented and felt more pride about being a Razorback than Richardson. The personable Richardson talked about what missing last season was like.

"It was tough," Richardson said. "Playing the No. 1 team here at home and not getting to play. Coach B talked about it to you guys several times. I did shed a tear because it was tough not being able to play. That's a dream come true, to play the No. 1 team at home and try to beat them.

"And to be able to play Florida in those nice uniforms...that was something I really wanted to do and I didn't get to participate in it. But I'm ready for this year and I'm excited to see what it brings."

Richardson is a natural leader for the Razorbacks. He sets the example for the younger players both on and off the field. Richardson talked about assuming a leadership role.

"Yeah, I kind of felt like they wanted me to be a leader off the field last year," Richardson said. "Try to gain some stuff from the other side, the coaches perspective to see what they wanted me to do there. I feel like I grasped that leadership role last year and it helped me grow as a leader from this year. It's going to show more."

In Saturday's Red-White game will the defense hold back on the blitz looks?

"Ya'll see what we put out there," Richardson said. "Coach Rhoads will probably talk to ya'll about what we are going to run. It's probably going to be pretty basic out there. Regardless of what we run, there's going to be some exciting plays by the defense."

But blitz or not, the defense is prepared to put on a show?

"Yeah, we're going to try to put on a show anyway," Richardson said. "Any call that we play. It's going to show up."

You play a lot of nickel, does this defense allow more blitzing from that position?

"It's a little bit aggressive," Richardson said. "Coach Rhoads likes to vary what we bring into packages. He likes everybody to get their share of blitzing and covering. For me to be able to do that, I really like bringing some pressure. I like trying to disguise it. I talk to the guys in the backend, 'try to hold it.'

"I tell them I'd do the same thing for you if you blitz to try to get you a better look. I like trying to make it a better look for everybody."

The wide receivers the secondary has gone against this spring has been a bunch of new faces other than Jared Cornelius, who is out with an injury right now. Who has impressed you at that position?

"They are really missing Jared right now," Richardson said. "But Brandon Martin, Jonathan Nance, those are some guys who are JUCO guys who came in eager to show they had the talent to play at the next level and they can. They've been showing it pretty well. Brandon Martin is a big body. Nance is a slimmer Jared. It's nice to have those different types of talents to play against because those are the type of people you'll see in the SEC."

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