Notre Dame's pre-spring depth chart has junior Morrice Richardson listed as a starter at defensive end. However, when defensive coordinator Corwin Brown was asked how Richardson was handling the position change, he responded quickly by saying, "Who says he's playing defensive end?"
Richardson himself isn't even sure of his exact position. He played in nine games for the Irish as a freshman, mostly as a defensive end in pass rushing situations. In '07, Richardson again saw action in nine games, this time mostly at outside linebacker. Moving back and forth, though, hasn't bothered him.
"You never know what you're going to get," Richardson said. "I can be anywhere."
Richardson's role in the defense looks to change yet again this year with the arrival from Georgia Tech of new linebackers coach Jon Tenuta. Tenuta is expected to employ a defensive style that is very aggressive and heavy on blitzing, both good things according to Richardson.
"I like it, man, I like it," Richardson said of Tenuta's system. "Get in their butt like a bike without a seat. I like that."
Richardson said the style reminds him of how teams play in his home state of Georgia.
"That's how we play down south," Richardson said. "Down south, it's up in your face. We're going to rattle you."
Being from Georgia, Richardson was already familiar with Tenuta from his time at Georgia Tech. The two talked when the Yellow Jackets were recruiting Richardson. In fact, Tech was the first school to offer Richardson a scholarship.
Richardson also said that Tenuta commands a certain level of respect from the players, given his history of success.
"He doesn't make pointless points," Richardson said. "When he speaks, one hundred percent of the time he means something."
In Tenuta's system, it is important that the defensive ends are quick and able to move around the field easily. Tenuta said Richardson has a good skill set for his type of defense.
"He's got tremendous explosion," Tenuta said of Richardson. "He's got excellent lateral movement. He does a lot of things in a pressure package defense that our ends have to do for us to be successful. He fits the mold of what we want."
Brown, too, said that Richardson has fit in well with the new defensive scheme.
"He's playing well; he's got a good motor right now," Brown said. "And when you've got a good motor, that's a good starting point. He's got a really good motor."
That motor has been hard at work this offseason, trying desperately to improve on last year's 3-9 debacle. Last season reminded Richardson of his junior year at Westlake High School in College Park, Ga. His team went 4-6 and, for the first time in Richardson's football career, missed the playoffs. Richardson said remembers watching the other high schools compete in the state playoffs on television at his home and crying.
"It's like the worst experience ever," Richardson said of losing. "When football's what you do, it kind of makes you feel sub-human."
Watching his friends and even some family members compete in bowl games this winter was similar to his high school trials, Richardson said. But that feeling has motivated him to improve himself and the team this offseason.
"This year, I'll do anything to win, besides cheat," Richardson said. "I'll do anything to win. I don't care. On the field, [I'll] claw, scratch, bite, kick."
Right now, though, Richardson said he's just glad to put the pads back on and hit someone, even if it is one of his own teammates.
"The best way to sharpen metal is by using metal," Richardson said. "So we just make ourselves better. Whatever happens on the field stays on the field, when we come back in the locker room we're one big family again."
Richardson said that sometimes this winter, while walking to class, he'd envision a certain play, running through it in his head and acting it out with his hands. But there's always one catch: the play always ends up with Richardson on top.
"That's the only thing I think about: victory," Richardson said. "Defeat hasn't even crossed my mind."
Richardson also has personal goals set for this season. Before every meeting this offseason, he wrote down on a pad of paper "First Round, Top Ten", indicating his desired position in the NFL Draft.
"I want to be All-American," Richardson said. "I want to set records."
For Richardson, though, the team comes first. He said when he went home he visited with one of his cousins who plays football for Gerogia and was showing off the Bulldogs' Sugar Bowl championship ring.
"Man, that pissed me off so bad," Richardson said. "I want to get a national championship ring."
Richardson is even holding his own coaches accountable to that goal. During the offseason, he would ask coaches, "We're going to Miami, right?" referring to the 2009 BCS National Championship Game that will take place in Miami. If the coach faltered, Richardson said, then they weren't on the same page.
"[Miami]'s the goal, and that's the end all be all," Richardson said. "We've got to get this program back on the map."
Recently, in Richardson's accounting class, the professor was going over budget projections and the importance of realistic projections. He then asked Richardson for a realistic projection for the football team in 2008. Richardson offered a simple response: "13-0."
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