Jared Richardson is a problem ... for opposing defenses, defensive coordinators, and just about anyone else who tries to get in his way.
Last year, the wide receiver saw limited action in his freshman campaign, only appearing in four games and not catching a single pass. This season, he's come on with a bang, and turned into one of the Quakers' premier weapons.
This started early, with Richardson catching seven passes for 62 yards and a score in the season-opener against Colgate before exploding for 12 catches, 139 yards, and two touchdowns at Bucknell. After a quiet next few weeks, he was back at it last weekend at Yale, notching 17 receptions (a new program record), 191 yards (ninth-most in program history), and a touchdown as the Quakers tamed last year's Ivy League champions.
If this rise sounds meteoric, that's because it is. In current conference standings, Richardson, as a sophomore, leads the Ivy League in receptions, is second in total yards, and is tied for second in receiving touchdowns. All of this after not recording a single reception in Red in Blue prior to mid-September.
And here's the thing: I don't think he's done yet. After the Yale game, coach Ray Priore discussed how Richardson had never really played wide receiver before arriving at Penn. Instead, he was a quarterback and star basketball player at Bethlehem Catholic High School. As the season progresses, Richardson is still learning some of the technical aspects of playing the position, and that means that he still has room to grow as a receiver.
What can't be denied is that Richardson has natural talent. As he told The Daily Pennsylvanian last month, following that game against Bucknell, "Football is in my DNA. My father and my brother both played ball, so I took after them."
He also has, in the words of Priore, the ideal body type to excel at the wide receiver position. At six feet, two inches and 215 pounds, Richardson showcases a unique blend of strength and speed that make him hard to tackle in the open field and a legitimate threat in contested-catch situations. Furthermore, his basketball background means that he can outjump opposing defensive backs on downfield throws and in the red zone.
Having seen Richardson play multiple games so far this year, I think the sky truly is the limit for him. He has everything it takes to be the best wideout to don the Red and Blue since Justin Watson. I've seen him catch passes on a wide variety of routes and starting positions on the field. As the weeks go by, I've seen how opposing defensive coordinators are increasingly wary of number 18's presence.
While Richardson has already etched his name in the Penn football record book, more importantly, he has already shown how valuable he is to Penn. In the Quakers' one loss this season, at home to Dartmouth, he recorded a grand total of two catches for 18 yards. In perhaps their closest win of the season — an overtime win vs. Georgetown — he didn't get in the box score at all. This team will be determined by Richardson, and if what we've seen so far is an indicator, Penn is destined for success.
CALEB CRAIN is a junior and current sports editor studying European history and statistics from Los Angeles. All comments should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.