Big QB Waiting For UT Offer

In the unpredictable world of college football recruiting, Zach Richardson is living proof that recognition is at least as important as production.

The 6-5, 205-pound, quarterback was a senior-to-be that had never started a game in his three seasons at Lassiter High School in Marietta, Ga., when he decided to attend summer football camps at Tennessee, Auburn, Georgia and Furman, hoping to get noticed.

"Actually my dad had heard if I wanted to get recognized I needed to go to a lot of summer camps," Richardson said. "He said: Well, why don't we just go up to Tennessee? We had been Georgia Bulldog fans my whole life so that kind of shocked me. When I went up there everything went pretty well and it's gone on from there."

One of the people at UT to take an interest in the strong-armed lefty with the smooth delivery was Tennessee offensive coordinator Randy Sanders. Interestingly, although Richardson was grateful for any attention at that point, he had no idea who Sanders was.

"I didn't know who coach Sanders was," Richardson sheepishly confessed. "I didn't have any idea he was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee. I thought he was one of the double A coaches working there."

After making the round of football camps, Richardson started to hear from schools interested in learning more about him. However without any substantial game film to show, it became a matter of wait and see what he could do as a senior.

Tennessee assistant coach Steve Caldwell took over the week-to-week recruiting of Richardson, but he also heard from Sanders. However the next time these two met, Richardson knew who Sanders was and it made him nervous that UT's offensive coordinator was coming to see him play.

"Sanders called me two or three times this season," Richardson said. "He said one time he was going to come down to see me play and he did. I was really nervous that game."

Despite a serious case of nerves, Richardson had one of his better games that night against Etowah as he completed 10-of-17 passes with a pair of touchdowns.

"I played quarterback all through high school but I just never had an opportunity to start or play much," he said. "The first game I was really nervous, it was our only game against another county team (Poke County HS), plus they were our rivals for Lord knows how long. It's only three or four miles away."

Richardson was much more calm by the second game and his confidence grew exponentially with his playing time last season.

"Just being in the system for four years and knowing the whole offense since my sophomore year that really helped this year," he said. "I got a lot more comfortable just getting playing time."

Richardson finished the season with 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns as the Trojans went 5-5 for the second straight season. What really caught the attention of scouts was the same thing that coaches noticed in football camps last summer. Richardson has a big arm and is capable of consistently covering 70 yards in the air. He stands tall in the pocket, sees the field well and has a deft touch on short passes. He also has good mobility for his size with 4.85 speed in the 40. Given the progress he exhibited as a senior, Richardson is all about potential.

"My height and being able to see over the line and make good reads are my strengths," he said. "I have a good arm and I think my accuracy is pretty good, too."

Richardson liked his initial trip to Tennessee's campus so much that he made four unofficial visits last fall, including the Vols games against Florida, Miami and Kentucky. He also took three unofficial visits to Auburn games and traveled once to Georgia. He has interest from these and several other schools, but he hasn't received a scholarship offer yet.

"I have no offers," he said. "I'm just waiting. If I had my choice it would probably be Tennessee. My dad wants me to go to Tennessee, too."

Turning a couple of lifetime Georgia fans is a tribute to Tennessee's facilities, tradition, game-day atmosphere and outstanding fan support.

"I thought the atmosphere was incredible," Richardson related. "Even when they played Miami everybody was still rooting them on. Nobody left the stadium until about a minute left in the game. For the fans to stay there like that, when most fans would leave with their team that far behind, that really overwhelmed me."

Speaking of overwhelmed, Richardson hasn't yet been able to visualize how he would respond to playing in front of 107,000 Tennessee fans at Neyland Stadium in light of his lack of game experience coming out of high school.

"I have no idea," he admitted. "I'm speechless."

Richardson will return to Knoxville next weekend (Jan. 24) for his official visit, and he might be surprised if Tennessee offers a scholarship, but he won't be speechless.

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