Teams aren’t catching on: it’s not wise to cover Ahmmon Richards with one defender.
Pitt tried, and he recorded more yards (144) in a game than any Miami freshman ever. Virginia thought it could handle him, and he recorded another 100-yard day. North Carolina State did too, and he racked up 117 yards on a career-high nine catches.
The big plays Richards has made — a 37-yard catch at Virginia Tech, his 142-yard day against Appalachian State, when he set the single-game Miami record for a freshman receiver — have come in single coverage. Teams simply haven’t found ways to stop him.
Should they double Richards and leave Stacy Coley or David Njoku alone? Not a welcome thought. So Richards continues to roast the one defender he sees, in what should be a freshman All-America season.
The Wellington High grad leads all freshmen in receiving yards (849), and his yards-per-catch average (19.74) is 11th among all players. Last week, he broke Michael Irvin‘s 31-year old UM record for most yards in a season by a freshman (840).
Richards has outstanding speed — and, as Notre Dame’s Julian Love discovered, can hurdle defenders — but his ability to get yards after catch has come mainly from his precise route-running. One play Miami has worked to perfection: Richards runs 8 yards up the sideline, stops and turns to catch a pass thrown to his outside shoulder. He senses where his man is, puts on a move, and takes off.
“I can’t tell you how many times we have thrown that route since spring ball,” said Mark Richt, who calls it a “fade-stop.” It requires trust between Brad Kaaya and Richards, who has earned it.
“It’s from timing,” said Richards, after turning that move into a career-long 77-yard touchdown against Virginia. “I knew when he threw it there, I was able to get ‘YAC’.”
That ability has made Richards the only freshman on Miami’s single-season receiving top 10. Richards, who has four 100-yard games this year — and three in a row — is 313 shy of record-holder Allen Hurns (1,162 in 2013). He needs 151 yards to become UM’s first 1,000-yard freshman. Only four Hurricanes — Hurns, Leonard Hankerson (2010), Eddie Brown (1984) and Andre Johnson (2002) are in the 1,000-yard club.
If he joins them, he’ll use the fade-stop, and a slant, which involves him running to the middle of the field in a diagonal pattern. Richards, arguably UM’s fastest receiver, is a downfield threat, but has proven to be excellent at turning intermediate catches into long gains.
“Between those two routes and then [taking] it deep every once in a while, it’s hard for a cornerback who’s playing man coverage to handle him,” Richt said. “He’s really outstanding at that. He isn’t just happy to catch the ball. He wants to get the yards after catch. It’s really been big for us.”