Size: 5-9, 180
High School: Central (LA)
2011 Review: Speed kills, and J.R. Richardson can flat out fly. As a true freshman, Richardson was used on special teams as a kickoff specialist where he led the Mustang return game and finished fourth in the conference averaging 21.3 yards a return.
Coming out of high school as one of the top prospects in Louisiana, Richardson was clocked at 4.35 in the 40-yard-dash and was chosen as a first team All-State selection. Richardson was no stranger to returning kicks when he joined the Mustangs, the Baton Rouge stand-out was chosen as an All-District defensive back, kick returner, and athlete as well.
For the Mustangs, Richardson used his speed, size, and shiftiness to create decent field position for the Mustangs and got a great feel for running north and south as the season progressed. In the second quarter against Houston, Richardson caught the ball in the end zone and turned on the jets hitting a wide-open hole in the middle of the field for a 54-yard return. Had he broken the last tackle, he would have surely put six on the board at a crucial time in the game where SMU was only down 6-0 after holding Houston to two early field goals.
Richardson earns a grade of B+ for last year not just because of his return average but because he took care of the football. As a true freshman, it wouldn't have been outside of the norm if he had carried the ball carelessly or tried to make plays that cost the Mustangs the ball, however, for most of the season Richardson played within himself and grew more patient with reading blocks and getting up the field.
2011 Grade: B+
Outlook in 2012: Richardson, whose role for last year was restricted to kick return, looks to become the full time starter at cornerback next year on the other side of Kenneth Acker. This means that the Mustang secondary will only have one starting senior in safety Ryan Smith.
SMU finished dead last in the conference last year in turnover margin at a deplorable -16. A part of this can be attributed to the team's lack of interceptions. SMU also finished last in the conference in this category; only tallying six over the course of the year. The average across the league was 12.
Next year it would probably do Richardson well to get acclimated into the position before he starts to take gambles -as far as jumping on routes and making plays on the ball because teams are sure to test him early.
However, his speed and quickness should help him tremendously and if he does get his hands on the ball in space, good luck catching him because he's probably going the distance. Look for him to be one of the young bright spots on the team by then end of the season.
Player Profile Series: CB James Richardson
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