After waiting for years to see junior DT Sheldon Richardson 6'4" 305 playing football in the Black & Gold, Missouri fans have been getting a good look at the talented big man of late, as he's moved into the regular rotation, and is playing about as much as the starters.
On the season, Richardson has garnered 28 total tackles, which is second on the Tigers among defensive linemen. He's also been credited with 6.5 tackles-for-loss, including 1 QB sack, and a pass-break-up, and 2 QB hurries. Earlier this week, his head coach talked about his development as a player.
"He's getting better and better," said Coach Pinkel, talking about Sheldon Richardson. "The more he gets coached, the more he practices, the better work habits he develops, the fundamental work that he does, those things carry over into the games. Also, utilizing the skills and pass-rush moves (he's learning), he is going to get better and better. I said that at the beginning of the season. It certainly is nice to see that. I thought he rose to the occasion last week (in Terrell Resonno's absence), and really did some good things."
"Genetically, (Richardson) is very gifted," continued Coach Pinkel. "He is a very explosive, strong athlete. (When) you (combine) that with a great work ethic, with good off-season habits, we will have him lifting in our off-season program. And, along with other great players in our program in the past that have developed, he will do the same thing. He starts out with a lot of good numbers because it is a gift."
Richardson agreed with his head coach regarding the improvement in his play.
"I've seen the film. I am getting better, my overall play," admitted Richardson. "Managing my gaps and stuff is getting better. I still need to work on that a little bit more. But as far as the overall game, I'm getting an understanding of it. It's starting to come together, starting to click for me. So, I just feel like I'm getting real good at it."
Against Baylor, Richardson and the other Missouri linemen were being held on almost every play, although none of those penalties were called. I asked Richardson about that. He laughed.
"It's frustrating! It's just real frustrating," replied Richardson. "You think you'd get a call on something as serious as that. And then, it was in clutch situations in the game, sometimes, most of the time."
Richardson said that he tries not to let that affect him on the next play.
"You've just got to keep playing through it," said Richardson. "That's just how it goes……………………………………… You just focus on making the next play."
Richardson reflected briefly on his day-to-day progress since his arrival at Missouri in August.
"I'm more focused on school a whole lot more now," began Richardson, talking about the transition from junior college to playing football at Missouri. "I'm more in tune with football, doing a whole lot of film, technique watching, getting evaluated by coaches. I've been a lot more into my craft as a defensive linemen……………………………………… It's ongoing. To say you've perfected a perfect defensive lineman is not true. You always have something to work on, but it came along pretty fast for me."
As Coach Pinkel pointed out, Richardson is a very gifted, strong, explosive athlete. He's also transitioned quickly to playing major college football. He's displayed a very physical style of play. I asked him about being physical, and about playing the game with abandon?
"I play reckless with my body," explained Richardson. "You can't be a good defensive lineman, period, if you don't play reckless."
After seeing Richardson gain increased playing time, and having some success, I've wondered if the big junior would stick around for his senior year, or if the NFL might lure him away.
"I haven't really thought about going to the NFL, yet," said Richardson. "I'm coming back. That hasn't crossed my mind at all. I haven't even thought about it yet, really, to tell you the truth, because I feel that I haven't played good enough to even consider that. So, that's how I feel………………………………. I'm coming back (to Missouri). Most definitely coming back."