SEFFNER — Chronologically, Darryl Richardson’s a strapping 17-year-old veteran. With nine varsity starts, at least four major offers and some tread here and there, he stands as one of Armwood’s elder statesmen.
But in every other sense, the 6-foot-5 Hawks quarterback insists he’s showroom new; a more rugged, reliable model than the 2011 version.
“I’m stronger, I feel like I’m faster, I’m just ready to go,” Richardson said Thursday afternoon beneath a bruise-colored sky on Lyle Flagg Field. “I’m 100 percent. I’m geeked up, I’m ready. I feel like nobody can stop me right now.”
The pain that attached itself to Richardson’s right knee, right shoulder, and overall growth as a first-year starter last fall has disappeared. These days, he appears a tad taller, yet gets his helmet lower. Confidence has supplanted tentativeness. Instead of missing reads, he’s making them.
“We’re letting him check stuff at the line now,” Hawks offensive coordinator Evan Davis said.
It’s an evolution that could give the Hawks a fighting chance at another state title, three months after eight offensive starters graduated. Richardson, besieged by injuries and inexperience in 2011, has developed into a three-tool player.
Which is to say, he can pass, run and read.
“Mentally, he’s understanding the game a lot more,” said Davis, who unveils the new Richardson tonight against reigning Class 3A state champ Delray Beach American Heritage.
“Last year, he truly played like, (nine) varsity games, and he never started before that at (Tampa Bay) Tech. Now, the game should start slowing down for him.”
It was at Mach speed this time last year in Las Vegas. Less than nine months after arriving from TBT, Richardson found himself behind center for a nationally televised contest against Nevada heavyweight Bishop Gorman.
The 20-17 win was his first varsity start — and his last for nearly a month. Richardson, shaky in that outing (5-for-13, 117 yards), suffered a swollen bursa sac in his knee and missed the next three games.
Then in the last regular-season game, against King, he sustained a deep right shoulder bruise after a hard fall, and missed three playoff contests. He returned in time for the last two games, alternating with Alvin Bailey in the Class 6A state finals win against Miami Central.
“Yeah, it was (frustrating),” Richardson said. “Going in, first year starting, I get hurt. It was crazy.”
He followed it with an intense summer that Davis says was the best of any Hawks offensive player. At 220 pounds, Richardson is roughly 10 pounds lighter, lending to his mobility. Though not a natural runner, he has become far more efficient in the zone-read portion of Armwood’s scheme.
In Saturday’s 55-0 season-opening romp of Brandon, he threw for 73 yards while carrying four times for 55. The rushing total matched his single-game high.
It’s that dimension, Davis says, that could complement Bailey (a University of Florida commitment), keep defenses guessing and propel Armwood to another title run. Richardson’s ready to kick that dimension into high gear, starting tonight.
No more test-drives.
“I feel like I’ve got something to prove, I really do,” Richardson said. “I’m going to give everybody what they want to see.”