For those of you who might’ve missed the memo, The Daily Gopher is counting down the Top 10 players on the current football roster. TDG staff members were asked to submit their rankings based on on-field performance and those selections were used to create a composite set of rankings. We’ve been unveiling our Top 10 every couple days over the last few weeks.
Our countdown continues with defensive tackle Steven Richardson at No. 2.
Richardson has been terrorizing opposing offensive lineman for as long as he has been a Gopher. The “undersized” defensive tackle had three scholarship offers coming out of high school (one from Minnesota, and the other two from Northern Illinois and Western Michigan), in large part because Power 5 programs (like Northwestern, for example, but more on that later) didn’t think he had the height to compete at the Power 5 level.
They were, of course, wrong.
Richardson has been a three-year starter for Minnesota entering his senior season. He has played in 36 games over the last three seasons and started 32 of them. As a freshman, Richardson notched 23 tackles, including six tackles for loss and two sacks, and one forced fumble. For his efforts, he was named the Gophers’ Defensive Freshman of the Year.
He followed that up with a sophomore season that saw him named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention by the coaches. His breakout game came on the road against Colorado State, when he recorded a career-high seven tackles with three tackles for loss including a sack, forced and recovered a fumble, and broke up a pass. Richardson finished the season with 26 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery.
As a junior, Richardson led the team with 11 tackles for loss, including seven tackles. He finished the season with a total of 31 tackles, with two forced fumbles. He had another great game against Colorado State, registering seven tackles and one sack. Last season, Richardson also recorded the first multi-sack game of his Minnesota career with a pair of sacks against Purdue. But he saved his best for Northwestern — and with good reason.
In the postgame press conference, Richardson recounted how a Northwestern assistant coach visited him in high school, looked him up and down, and left after deciding he wasn’t tall enough to play at this level. He never forgot that, and made sure that coach wouldn’t forget him either by feasting on the Northwestern offensive line. He collected two of the Gophers’ seven sacks — including a strip sack that led to a field goal — and was a huge reason the Minnesota defensive line was able to pressure quarterback Clayton Thorson, even with a four man rush at times.
Hey @Northwestern am I still too short to play Big Ten football?— Stove Richardson (@mteam_srich) November 20, 2016
Richardson has even been named to ESPN’s list of Top 10 returning fourth year players in all of college football, citing the fact that he finished fourth last year among defensive tackles in pass rushing productivity and that he recorded a total of 16 quarterback pressures against the likes of Penn State, Iowa, Nebraska, and Washington State.
TDG’s Top 10 Gopher Football Players:
No. 2 - Steven Richardson
No. 3 - Shannon Brooks
No. 4 - Antoine Winfield, Jr.
No. 5 - Jonathan Celestin
No. 6 - Emmit Carpenter
No. 7 - Cody Poock
No. 8 - Rashad Still
No. 9 - Blake Cashman
No. 10 - Ryan Santoso
Be sure to check back on Monday as we unveil our top choice at No. 1! You’re going to be so shocked, I just know it.