At this point, Ahmmon Richards might as well change his number from 82 to 3.
He and Stacy Coley, the former Miami wideout who wore the latter jersey, have trod remarkably similar paths. Both were elite recruits, Coley at Oakland Park-Northeast, Richards at Wellington High. Both were freshman All-Americans who drew comparisons to Miami greats from the greats themselves. As sophomores, both had a rough go.
“It was hard,” Richards said last Thursday in a phone interview. “Probably the hardest thing I think I’ve been through in my life.”
Richards, like Coley before him, enters his junior year hoping for a reboot, eager to once again torch enemy secondaries. He’ll have to wait. He remains in recovery from November surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, and won’t be fully involved when Miami opens spring drills Tuesday.
After last season, there’s no reason to rush him.
He finished with 24 catches for 439 yards — third on the team — and three scores. That was during a season in which he never felt right.
Richards pulled his hamstring midway though August camp, robbing him of the burst that helped him set a UM freshman record for receiving yards (934) in 2016. He sat out six weeks and debuted Sept. 29 at Duke. “The only game I felt pretty good,” he said. He caught three passes for 106 yards and a turned a 2-yard slant into a 49-yard touchdown.
On that play, he pulled his hamstring again. He played in Miami’s win at Florida State, catching four passes for 68 yards, and sat the following week against Georgia Tech.
“He was never 100 percent,” coach Mark Richt said recently. “He gave us all he could and we were as patient as we could be.”
As Miami prepared for the ACC championship game, Richards seemed to be close to full health. Richt remarked that he was “flying” in drills. During a Nov. 29 practice, he went skyward for a ball in the end zone and landed awkwardly.
“I knew it was something bad because of the sound I heard,” Richards said. “I was thinking, ‘Can’t nothing go my way? Come on. Not something else.'”
This spring, Richards expects he’ll be jogging “a lot and doing some cutting stuff. Not sprinting, not full speed,” he said. He’s also working on his hands, hoping to shed the drops that have plagued him at times. Richards, 6-foot-1, said he has added five pounds and now weighs 195. “Definitely benching a lot more,” he said, “doing a lot more stuff” in the weight room.
Richt, who called a healthy Richards “one of the best receivers in America,” said he expects a full return this summer.
“Just doing as much as the coaches tell me to do,” Richards said. “They’re being smart with everything. Obviously I want to be out there competing … it [stinks] just watching, but it’s part of the process. It’ll be worth it.”
* Richards on his roommate, returning starting quarterback Malik Rosier:
“Not that he wasn’t working harder last year, but he’s doing a lot of extra stuff, whether its running on the treadmill before [lifting] weights, he’s eating a lot of greens, making salads, taking better care of his body. I think I need to do the same.”
* What did he see from the sidelines as he watched Miami’s offense struggle against Clemson and Wisconsin?
“That’s a good question. I really don’t know. We lost the games. A lot of little plays were left on the field and could have made a difference, I feel like.”
* How did Rosier handle the criticism that came with Miami’s 0-3 finish?
“I think he did a really good job. When we lost three game sin a row, the fans were all on social media talking bad about him. What I saw him do is put his head down and keep working. … I think he’ll be back and better than ever.”
* What does he think of redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry, a contender for the starting job?
“I think he’s maturing. I think he’ll understand the game a lot more. He’s becoming more of a student of the game. From what I can see, he’s more focused. He’s taking everything a lot more serious. We’re all competing for a job.”
* Would it surprise Richards if Perry won the job?
“Would it surprise me? I wouldn’t think so. Whoever it is, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m just ready to play football and win some games.”
* Coley, by the way, now wears No. 13 for the Minnesota Vikings, who chose him in the seventh round (216th overall) in 2017. He appeared in four games as a rookie.