Richardson Handles Adversity

Whenever a veteran player loses a spot to a newcomer, it's always a wake-up call. Such was the case for senior defensive end Jay Richardson, who last year suddenly saw himself behind true freshman Lawrence Wilson. But Richardson decided to refocus and work harder, and now finds himself having a productive senior season at defensive end.

Coming into fall, Jay Richardson might as well have been the invisible man in the minds of many. Lawrence Wilson, a late addition to the 2005 recruiting class, had seemingly already eclipsed the once promising senior. Given a choice on who they would start at defensive end for the Fiesta Bowl, the coaches chose Wilson. That Richardson had already spent four years in the program but was not starting over a true freshman who only arrived in time for fall camp was not lost on many – including Richardson.

"It was a little bit of a wake up call. It was a learning experience for me. I think it (was) good for me to refocus myself for this year," he admitted Tuesday.

The net result was a young man who looked at himself in the mirror and determined he wasn't happy with where he stood as a player.

The proverbial light switch flipped and out popped a thousand watt bulb, "Bringing in our new strength coach Eric (Lichter) was a big boost for us," he said. "Whenever you bring in a guy with a whole different system it gets the team excited. He has demanded a lot of us. Me personally, I think I utilized it to the fullest. I saw my biggest strength gains in a while. I'm in great condition."

He set goals of not just coming into camp and winning a starting position but being the best player he could be. He determined he would eliminate any obstacles holding him back from being more consistent and hurdled the snare of entering his final season by refusing to coast through the year and enjoy the ride.

In part he credits the coaching staff and in part he credits his mother, Deborah Johnson; "I'm real driven. I have a lot of goals in my head that I want to do. My mother has helped me a lot. She has really been there for me and telling me to keep on working and not to worry about it all – stay focused and be on the right path and you will do what you should do."

He sums up his success neatly; "I worked a lot harder in the off-season and just came into this season a lot more prepared and a lot more focused."

He came in focused enough that teams are now focusing efforts on stopping him.

Against Northern Illinois he tallied 4 tackles, 2.5 of those for a loss, and a sack. A little quieter against Texas and Cincinnati, he held his own but reappeared against Penn State. Iowa and Bowling Green were solid but not spectacular games, but then came Michigan State.

Against the Spartans, he was a force to be reckoned with. Richardson disrupted the line of scrimmage more often than an impertinent four year asks questions and wrapped up tailback Jehuu Caulcrick for minimal gains and even losses when he ventured into his zip code. The senior defensive end finished with a career best five tackles (tying his mark against Northwestern in 2004), and two of those were for lost yardage.

Maybe that doesn't sound like much for a defensive player when linebackers can often rack up 15 or more stops in a single game, but it was apparently good enough to grab the coaches' attention; "The attack force player of the week was Jay Richardson," said head coach Jim Tressel in his weekly press conference. "Jay, I thought, showed up, made plays, created problems for the Michigan State offense and was awarded the attack force player of the game."

Truth be told, the entire defensive front for the Buckeyes has been an attack force in 2006; "A lot of that is just being a good reactionary defensive lineman," said Richardson. "You want to be aggressive; you don't ever want to take away that aggression. You have to react to blocks, you have to react to the run, react from run to the pass. You have to balance that out with you don't want to go all out but at the same time I have to understand what we have to do and play within the defense. I think this year from a run/pass standpoint I think we have a really balanced defensive line. I know Quinn Pitcock is definitely a great run stopper for us, and I know Dave (Patterson) is (not just) a great run stopper, he is also a great pass rusher at defensive tackle. You have that inside as a great combination. Then I know I am a good pass rusher, and I am learning to be a better run stopper. We have a good balance on the defensive line."

Gholston, perhaps the greatest X factor of all of the starters matches up on the opposite side and also wreaks havoc. He actually leads the team with tackles for loss (9.0 to Quinn Pitcock's 8.5) and is tied with Pitcock for the most tackles of any defensive lineman, 26. He rounds out his impressive numbers with an interception.

At some point, offensive coordinators have to wonder where to attack and who to block. Any one of the Buckeye defensive front four can, in the proper setting, create a perfect storm to wreck an entire game plan.

Still, when asked about his performance on Saturday, Richardson was, like most of the Buckeye players in 2006, reluctant to say too much; "I don't know. I was just excited and having fun. The plays kind of came to me."

Ask them about one another or their unit as a whole, and they are likely to wax eloquent, but they are not going to on and on about their own abilities or performances.

He admits, "You have to have a certain confidence about you. Any team worth its salt, that is a good team, should be confident. It should have some swagger, and I think we have that, but we're not cocky in any way."

He closed the thought by saying, "We try to be a very humble team."

This is in part why it was so important for Richardson that he actually lose the starting job before regaining it in 2006.

"I wouldn't have had the kind of the year I've had (without that). Coach Tressel talks about handling adversity and handling success. Handling success is just as important if not more important."

Richardson has proven he can handle adversity. The only remaining question is how will he – and the entire team – handle success.

Tune in every Saturday to find out.

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