The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 1:57 pm

IU lineman ignores critics

Kyle Rowland The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Bobby Richardson’s heard the skepticism since he was a two-star recruit from Tampa’s Plant High School. He wasn’t good enough to play in the Big Ten, critics said. Now he isn’t good enough to play in the NFL. 

Throughout his career, Richardson’s used his doubters as rocket fuel to spark an already simmering fire. The 2014 All-Big Ten selection went from the scout team to starter during his freshman season and never looked back.

"I’ve always been an underdog, so I want to make a good impression," said Richardson, who’s competing at the NFL Combine this week. "I want to try and separate myself."

The 6-foot-3, 286-pound defensive lineman’s first step toward separating himself was a productive senior season at Indiana. He led the defensive line with 35 tackles (24 solo), 9.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and two blocked kicks. Richardson had 129 career tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and three blocks.

Once again, though, there are numerous questions surrounding Richardson in Indianapolis as he attempts to put his cynics to rest – for good. Chief among his shortcomings, according to scouts, is his size, inability to shed blockers, lack of burst and upright playing style.

"I think Richardson is a backup at best on an NFL defense," said Dan Hope, an NFL draft analyst for Bleacher Report. "He doesn’t have the tools to be an every down player at any position. His experience playing in multiple spots along the defensive line in different schemes helps his chances of sticking on a roster but he’s more likely to be a depth player than a difference-maker."

To Richardson, who’s represented by agent Ryan Rubin of RMI Athletics, it’s all noise. He’s confident in his skill set translating to the NFL, and even if he doesn’t wow executives at the combine, he’s a multipurpose lineman. His knack for blocking kicks is especially enticing for decision-makers as the draft approaches. Richardson’s arm length measured 34 5/8 inches and his hands were 11 inches. 

"My key is to be versatile," Richardson said. "In my four years at Indiana, I played in a 4-3 and 3-4 so I feel like I can play in either system. My effort is something that sticks out. I play as hard as I can, and I have pretty good athleticism. I can make plays that maybe some other tackles can’t."

On National Signing Day in 2011 when Richardson signed with Indiana over Ball State and Florida Atlantic, then first-year coach Kevin Wilson described Richardson as "under the radar."

Four years later – also in February – Richardson is charting a similar course.

"Richardson is a disciplined run defender who typically holds his ground well and is a solid tackler," Hope said. "He has displayed some pass-rushing moves and can use his hands to fight his way off blocks. His scheme versatility also increases his value.

"His invitation to the combine is indicative he should at least garner consideration for a late-round pick. If he is undrafted, he should be signed quickly after the draft and have a legitimate opportunity to make a team’s defensive line rotation."

An AFC scout cast Richardson as an underrated prospect with starter potential. 

"I don’t worry about his fit because everyone runs so many sub-packages now," the scout said. "Just go get a guy with athleticism who can be disruptive. That’s him."

Another intangible: leadership. Richardson was a captain and an inspirational voice in the locker room. "It’s a lot to think about," he said of the evaluation process, "but it’s gone well. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to. Now that it’s here there’s a sense of urgency.

"I want to represent myself, my family and Indiana in a good way."

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