clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Gopher Football Fall Camp: Steven Richardson, Defensive Tackle Depth, And Sanity

Fall camp reports are Rorschach tests for a fan's mental state.

What we hope the opposing team's running back looks like after getting hit by the Gopher defensive line.
What we hope the opposing team's running back looks like after getting hit by the Gopher defensive line.

I'd like you to read the following update from Joe C:

Steven Richardson, a true freshman from Chicago, has played himself into the Gophers defensive tackle rotation, right behind starters Cameron Botticelli and Scott Ekpe, defensive line coach Jeff Phelps said Wednesday.

The way the Gophers rotate defensive linemen, the 6-foot, 291-pound Richardson likely will see regular playing time.

"He’s big enough, strong enough, fast enough to do what we want to do up front," Phelps said. "That’s why we recruited him."

Now think about how you feel when you read that. I'll give you some time to think that over.

If you answered Suck It Trebek I would ask that you focus and reset your attention to Gopher football. Like I had to.

Did you get excited when you read that? It's a pretty natural reaction for a fan who is excited about the fall and football season. Joe C is saying that our big true frosh DT is playing great and that the coaches are so happy with him that he's in the Top 3 of the DT rotation. Perhaps you recall Matt predicting just such an outcome on Signing Day:

Chances to play in 2014:

Quite likely, actually. Defensive tackle loses a pair of seniors and could use someone who can disrupt plays in the backfield. Richardson realistically can't get any bigger or quicker, and his game is all about leverage versus strength. I see him as a rotation guy right away.

Excellent. We're agreed, great news here so long as Joe C. doesn't follow up the lede paragraphs with bad news:

The Gophers liked their defensive tackle depth last year when they had Ra’Shede Hageman and Botticelli starting, with Ekpe and Roland Johnson rotating behind them. Hageman and Johnson graduated, with Hageman becoming a second-round pick for the Falcons.

“At defensive tackle, we’re solid with three [Botticelli, Ekpe and Richardson], and we’re looking for who’s four or five,” Phelps said. “It’s been a great competition.”

Phelps listed Robert Ndondo-Lay, Yoshoub Timms, Demaris Peppers and Harold Legania as players who could work their way into the defensive tackle rotation.

Ndondo-Lay also plays defensive end. The Gophers like his pass-rushing ability and want to see if he can be an every-down player.

Nothing too negative here right? 3 guys in the rotation are set and they're figuring the rest out. We'll be ok.

And yet, we're talking about an 18 year old 3 start true frosh easily breaking into the 2 deep at a position where we just lost a first round draft pick and the second most productive performer. Put that way it doesn't sound quite as nice.

I'm not saying what the right answer is here. In fact, with the number of unknowns we've got in play there is no right or wrong position. This is true opinion territory. And that's what I found interesting this AM. Because my reaction to the report on Richardson was elation (yes, young guy stepping up LOVE IT BRING ME FOOTBAW NOW!) then an immediate "wait a second..." pause as I reconsidered the true freshman part of the statement followed by a sigh and a "dammit Shede why did we not get one more year with you on the line?" lament.

This is the joy and the frustration of fall football everyone. For better or worse, I'm ready for the season to get here so we can stop playing "what if" and "what might be" and just deal with the "what is" results of the play on the field.