Spring football at the University of Washington has been so quiet for cornerback Quinton Richardson, you can hear a pass drop.
It’s peculiar, in fact, not to have Richardson foaming at the mouth over something – bragging about batting a would-be completion out of the hands of a receiver, or predicting great things for the Huskies’ secondary in 2010.
All of that has been replaced by a determined undertaking to regain what has been lost – a starting spot.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot from last season,” he said in a quiet but forthcoming tone. “I messed up. I feel like I’ve learned from it, and now I’m showing that on the field.”
And today’s “Friday Night Lights” spring game might be the opportunity he needs to put the finishing touches on a near-exemplary five-week camp.
“He’s a totally different man,” UW cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin said. “He’s been on a mission.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Richardson was the best cover man on the team. Granted, that came in 2008 when the 0-12 Huskies weren’t bragging much about one of the worst defenses in college football. But Richardson’s team-high seven pass breakups as a redshirt freshman seemed like a tiny ray of light during dark times.
As a sophomore last season, he was the starter from the outset.
Then came the boast after the early-season rout of Idaho: Richardson, along with Chris Polk, guaranteed the Huskies would beat Southern California the following week.
Even though they did in fact upset the Trojans, those kind of comments usually find their way into an opponent’s locker room and don’t sit well with UW coach Steve Sarkisian.
Sarkisian had a few words of his own for the talkative defender.
“That played a major role,” said Richardson about getting sideways with the coaching staff.
Sideways and downhill seemed to be the direction Richardson took the rest of the season.
By early October, Wilson High product Desmond Trufant was quickly established as the team’s No. 1 cornerback. And fellow true freshman Adam Long was seeing time with the first-string unit in practice along with Richardson.
By the seventh game – at Arizona State – even though Richardson was listed as the starter, he virtually had been replaced.
Martin said the O’Dea graduate stumbled over new play terminology. Consequently, it made Richardson question what he was doing. Ultimately he was playing a step slower than usual.
“One of the things we wanted to talk about for him was to get better making plays on the ball,” Martin said. “He always had good coverage (skills), and was playing close to the receivers.”
At 6-foot, 203 pounds, Richardson has one thing Trufant, Long, Vonzell McDowell and even touted incoming recruit Gregory Ducre don’t have: size.
“We’ve got some big receivers and they are tough matchups for you if you don’t have a tough, long-armed guy,” Sarkisian said.
It left the door open in the offseason or Richardson to get caught up, which he did. He knows the terminology. He knows the style UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt expects in the team’s coverage. Most important, he is playing as if he knows all that.
“You can’t blame a coach whether you play or not. It’s about how you play and how you do your job,” Richardson said. “Once I started doing that, you know, I began working my way up back with the ones (No. 1 defense). I’m doing a pretty OK job right now.
“That’s the goal – get my job back. I want to be that guy out there fighting with my guys.”
Receiver Jermaine Kearse is the latest to join the list of injured starters who will not play in tonight’s game, which is scheduled to kick off at 7. Kearse (right foot) suffered a sprain on a pass play at practice Tuesday. Others out include receiver D’Andre Goodwin (hamstring), running back Chris Polk (shoulder), offensive tackle Cody Habben (shoulder) and Wilson High graduate Trufant (groin). ... Tailback Brandon Yakaboski, who played two games in 2008 before suffering a serious knee injury, is finished with team after an unsuccessful rehabilitation. He will remain at the school. ... For the spring game, the No. 1 offense will be teamed with the No. 2 defense, and the No. 1 defense will be grouped with the No. 2 offense. The first-string units will face each other, followed by the No. 2s. Sarkisian said quarterback Jake Locker will play sparingly with the first-team offense.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442