What is it about Spring Games that makes recruits want to commit? Especially Spring Games played in perfect 72° weather and in front of the best crowd since the Holtz era? Rhetorical questions are rhetorical.
Chicago (IL) Mount Carmel HS defensive tackle Steven Richardson became the 3rd member of Jerry Kill's class of 2014, selecting Minnesota over offers from Northern Illinois and the prerequisite Western Michigan. Richardson is rated as a 3 star on the 247Sports Composite. He is the first defensive prospect in the fold for the current cycle and likely one of two defensive tackles the staff will sign next February.
From a Northwest Indiana Preps article last October:
To see Steve Richardson in action, you would think he was a farmer rather than someone who lives in the nation's third-largest city.
A 5-foot-11 junior, Richardson usually stops a running back before he gets to the line of scrimmage. Almost half of his tackles are for losses. He has 14 TFLs for a total of minus-74 yards. On the season, Richardson has 30 tackles.
"I just go out and do my job, and that is to stop the other team," said Richardson, part of a Caravan team (8-1) that faces Brother Rice at 11 a.m. today in a Class 8A first-round playoff game at Gately Stadium. "Nothing fancy. I am expected to to that, do what the coaches show us to do."
He would go on to notch 16 sacks and 43 tackles for the Class 8A state champions. Not too shabby.
"I have to get off the ball quick because I do go against some bigger guys," Richardson said. "A lot of it is staying low to the ground, technique, and because I am a little shorter, maybe I have an advantage.
"I also have learned to play smarter, and that is something that is going to help you in the long run."
A wealth of interesting quotes. Here's more, from Ryan Burns' commitment article on Gopher Illustrated ($):
"Once I told Coach Phelps, he told me I had to call Coach Kill to tell him too," Richardson explained. "Coach Kill was really excited as well and he told me that he has no doubt that I can play at the Big Ten level and probably contribute early on. He also told me that I'll get some carries at fullback as well. He said that he wants to use me on the goal line or short yardage situation as well. I picked today to commit because I knew that I wanted to do it in person, so I planned to do it the next time I saw a Gopher coach, and that was today."
Underlined for emphasis. Whoa.
(Likely Fraudulent) Measurables
Weight: 285 lbs.
Fake 40 time: 4.61s
Richardson doesn't have an individual highlight tape yet but you can see clips of him on teammate (and 4* Michigan State commit) Enoch Smith's YouTubes -- Richardson is #68, generally lining up at nose tackle:
Also, Mount Carmel full game footage is available here.
Roland Johnson. Yoshoub Timms. Jordan Hinojosa. And now Steve Richardson. Again, patterns and trends are such for a reason.
Coach Kill, Claeys and Phelps really seem to have a certain "look" in mind when searching for 3-tech defensive tackles on the trail. Namely, they have to play with great leverage/pad level, they're quick off the snap and can rush the A/B gaps with speed. Ideal height, it seems, is not all that important on the list of criteria.
With that in mind, Richardson's pledge to the Gopher football program is not all that surprising nor is Kill's interest in the All State prospect. From watching full game film, he gets after it on every snap, has that "motor" people covet in a linemen and was insanely productive for a big class Chicagoland recruit. Measureables and potential may receive greater weight with some big name recruiters and Internet rating sites but Kill and his staff trust their observations, which no doubt see a kid who simply knows how to play DT.
It would be cliched to say Richardson fits what this staff is looking for at DT but..... he fits what they're looking for. They'll pair him off with a taller defensive tackle who is strong enough to hold the point of attack (but ideally plays with good pad level and can rush the passer as well) and play that aggressive "Teerlinck" philosophy. You know, the same John Teerlinck who coached three Super Bowl Champion defensive lines and mentored a Hall of Fame defensive tackle despite his shorter stature.
[By the way, that guy's name was John Randle]
If folks out there are wondering why we as Gopher fans should get excited about an undersized 3 star defensive tackle with only MAC level offers, just go and look at the full game film. Some players stand out for actually producing, some look good at combines wearing shorts and a number. Kill needs more of the former to help build Minnesota into a winner.
Richardson is that type of player. Yes, the "Kill-type."