There's a lot of different descriptions regarding his game Virginia running back Clifton Richardson will accept, but referring to him as a "power back" isn't one of them.
With his 6-foot-0, 215-pound frame, Richardson is by far the biggest tailback U.Va. (5-3 overall, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) has on its roster. Even coach Mike London has referred at times to Richardson's role as that of a power back, but it's not a term Richardson is comfortable with when it comes to his game.
He's not insulted by it – far from it. It's just a term he reserves for a level of running back he doesn't believe he has reached yet.
"I don't consider myself a power back," said Richardson, a freshman who graduated from Menchville High. "That's a guy like (Minnesota Vikings running back) Adrian Peterson."
Fair enough. So, if not a power back, how would Richardson describe his running style?
"I'm a balanced back, a guy that can run, block and catch," Richardson said.
The receiving side of his game is still a work in progress, but perhaps he's on to something with the rest of his self-analysis.
When U.Va. plays Saturday at Maryland (2-6, 1-4) with a chance to get bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007, and with control of its own destiny in the ACC race still in hand, Richardson will be U.Va.'s third option at tailback. It's the same role he has had all season. He has made the most of his six or seven carries per game.
Richardson leads all U.Va. running backs that have more than two carries with an average of 5.4 yards per carry (53 carries for 286 yards and two touchdowns). He only has one catch for six yards, but it went for a touchdown Oct. 22 in U.Va.'s 28-14 loss to North Carolina State.
"I really didn't have any expectations when I came (to U.Va.)," Richardson said. "I wanted to play, but I was going to do anything I could to get on the field. It's just worked out for me so far."
Maryland hasn't shown much of an ability to stop the run, giving up an average of 234.8 yards per game, which is the third-worst rushing yards per game average surrendered in the nation (118th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs).
The Terrapins have been run on an average of 48 times per game. Only one other defense has been run on more per game than Maryland's unit (San Diego State; 48.4 carries per game).
All of which means Richardson could see plenty of action in a rushing offense that's averaging 186.4 yards per game (37th in the nation; third in the ACC). Perry Jones has powered U.Va.'s running game, with 80 of his 119 average combined rushing and receiving yards per game coming on the ground.
Learning the nuances of the blocking game has been perhaps the biggest challenge for Richardson, who wasn't asked to do any of that kind of thing at Menchville, where he played quarterback and running back and accounted for 1,376 total yards (871 rushing and 505 passing) as a senior.
"Maybe it was Clifton left, Clifton right at high school, but in the college setting, based on personnel you have different types of protections," said London, whose team will try to snap a 13-game losing streak in the month of November (last win in November came Nov. 10, 2007 in a 48-0 victory at Miami).
"I'm sure there was some stuff on his plate that he had to work himself through. Over the course of practices and games, sitting in the team meeting room and the position meeting room with running backs, with (U.Va. running backs) coach (Mike) Faragalli and with the guys, he's picking it up and seeing it. Probably because as physical as he runs, he can be as physical when he pass protects also."
Faragalli has noticed Richardson's progress in the protection side of the game. It can be a slow process, but Richardson has been a quick study.
"The pass protection part is always the toughest part for a young player coming in," Faragalli said. "There's so many different protections, different assignments. It takes a long time…He's picking it up really well."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times