Since his hiring three seasons ago, Utah co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jim Harding has done an impressive job of improving Utah’s offensive line into one of the best units in the Pac-12 conference. It hasn’t come easy. It’s required a lot of time coaching on the field, and even more effort off the field recruiting and raising the talent level coming into the program. Coach Harding continued that trend with an addition from the top offensive lineman in the state of Utah, American Fork tackle Michael Richardson.
After an official visit to Utah last weekend, everything seemed right for Richardson to make the decision he knew he had to. “It was awesome, and it really confirmed everything I’ve felt all along. From the very beginning of my recruitment, Utah and Coach Harding have been on me about being a being a priority for them, and they never wavered. Being there in that kind of setting, especially with my parents, really showed me Utah was the place for me,” Richardson said.
What the Utes are getting in Richardson is one of the better offensive line prospects to come out of the state in the past few years. At 6-foot-5-inches and 265 lbs, Richardson has a very good frame for the next level, but it’s his athleticism that really sets him apart from other tackle prospects out West. Not only does Richardson have quick feet moving in close quarters, but he covers a lot of ground when pulling or out in space. He’s not the biggest tackle prospect, but Richardson is tough and a very strong finisher when run blocking.
Richardson received his very first offer from Utah in the summer,of 2015, and Coach Harding has done a fine job building maintaining the relationship between player and coach from that point. “Coach Harding is a very good coach and man. I have a really good relationship with him and all the coaches. He was never over the top or overbearing with my recruitment, but he was consistent with his efforts. Whenever I got home from a visit somewhere else, he always text me just to sort of keep him & Utah on my mind,” he explained.
It wasn’t just Richardson’s relationship with Coach Harding and the staff that convinced him Utah was the place. “They’ve been telling me they have four seniors graduating this year, so there will be plenty of opportunity, and down the road a good chance for the NFL,” he said. “The academics too. They’re taken for granted, but Utah is always near the top with Stanford and some of the other schools in terms of the APR and graduation rate and stuff like that. They are always near the top and that’s important to me.”
Something the Utes staff has really emphasized in their improved recruiting efforts is the opportunity to be a Hometown Hero, and that resonated with Richardson. “They’ve stressed from the beginning that the focus will always be the local kids, and it feels good to be made a priority and then to be able to play for the hometown team,” he explained.
Not only does it mean something to Richardson when he puts the pads on, but he’s taking on the role as the Utes look to finish strong with their 2017 class. “The best recruiters are recruits, so I’ve reached out to some of the other local kids like Langi Tuifua and Levani Damuni about coming to Utah, so yeah I’ll be pretty vocal from here on out," he said.
With Richardson’s commitment, he has found his home for the next 4-5 years, while Coach Whittingham and the Utes added a very good lineman and seemed to have kickstarted the home run stretch to Signing Day.