Terry Richardson is the latest in a recent line of Cass Tech corners who do their best work when they’re facemask to facemask with wide receivers. (Allen Trieu / Scout.com)
Detroit Cass Tech has long been a haven for some of the state's most talented football players, and this year is certainly no exception.
Head coach Thomas Wilcher has his normal band of speedy athletes, but this year they've sprinted further than usual. The Technicians (12-0) will face Lake Orion (11-1) in the state semifinals Saturday afternoon. One of the thoroughbreds leading the way for Cass Tech will be junior cornerback Terry Richardson.
While he'll never be confused with the biggest player on the football field, Richardson plays with a swagger that belies his size. That trait has been on constant display this season thanks to an excessive resulting from being the other corner on the team featuring Michigan commitment Delonte Hollowell.
"Delonte really doesn't have too many stats this year because teams always come my way," Richardson explained. "Me personally, I like the challenge. I like to continue to get tested to see where I stand. I'm just loving it."
Confident words to be sure, but Richardson has backed that talk up with his play. To date he has notched 30 tackles, eight interceptions, and even managed to chip in on offense with 300 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
"He's a natural at corner," said Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu. "He has tremendous instincts to go along with the quickness and hips to turn and run with receivers. He also has great ball skills. His main weakness is size. I'd like to see him add weight this offseason but his tackling this season has been solid despite that.
Based on the significant gains the slender, 5-foot-9 speedster made last offseason, future growth appears extremely likely.
"I believe last year I was around 130, and right now I am at 165," Richardson reported. "I feel way stronger. My press coverage is looking a lot better. That is something that I just cannot wait to work on this summer during camp season — being more physical in press coverage."
Richardson is the latest in a recent line of Cass corners who do their best work when they're facemask to facemask with wide receivers. Three years ago former Michigan player Boubacar Cissoko earned Army All American status based in large part on his penchant for being physical. The next two years, current Oregon corner Dior Mathis picked up right where Cissoko left off. Now Hollowell is the standard bearer. Richardson has already shown that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with his predecessors.
"I think Terry is the best of them with the ball in the air," Trieu said. "He's not as physical as Boubacar and Delonte, or as fast as Dior, but he makes more plays on the ball than the others. Currently he has a 3-star rating (on Scout.com), but it's early and we have 200 more 4-stars to add. He has a great chance to be one of them. I think he's definitely a top ten junior in Michigan — maybe top five.
Three of the country's top programs have already demonstrated their agreement with that assessment. Iowa, Alabama, and LSU stepped forward with verbal offers over the summer, but the Hawkeyes were the first to take the plunge at the insistence of defensive coordinator Norm Parker.
"Coach Parker was able to see my footwork and my cover skills at the (Sound Mind Sound Body) camp (at Wayne State)," Richardson told Scout.com. "He told me that I would be a real asset to Iowa and that they love me. He said that when they can, an official offer will be on the way."
Less than a week later Richardson performed well in camps at LSU and Alabama, prompting both SEC powers to follow Iowa's lead.
"After I left LSU they said they were going to start recruiting me hard," Richardson recalled. "Then I went to Alabama and did the same thing I did at LSU. Nick Saban called me into his office and offered me. He gave me the rundown and everything — told me he's going to offer me and they like me. Afterwards, my coach called Les Miles and told him the deal with Alabama. (Miles) said, 'The next time you bring him, I want to offer him in my office.' He said everything was taken care of and I'd have an offer."
For the time being, verbal offers from the aforementioned schools will have to suffice. An NCAA rule enacted this year delays the formal offer process until a prospect's senior season.
"(The schools) know about the new thing about how I can't get written offers until August 1 next year," Richardson stated. "They basically said the same thing Iowa said — when the time comes to send paperwork, I'll have the opportunity to play for their school."
Michigan and Michigan State have shown interest, but neither has extended a verbal offer. That has done nothing to lessen his interest in either program.
"Those are my in-state schools," he said. "You've always got to show that mad love for those two schools. Those are schools that you grew up watching. There is always some type of love there. Right now I know it is the time for them to finish with the 2011 recruits, so I'm just sitting back and just cruising and trying to finish out this season. February is when I'll really get a chance to sit down and talk with the coaches and really learn more about the programs."
Richardson has been keeping a close eye on the progress shown by both schools and is thoroughly impressed with the improvement that each has demonstrated.
"I actually made it my business to make sure that I get to both schools' games so I can check them out," he said. "Right now both schools are turning their seasons around from last year. They've made a lot of noise this year, so that's a plus. That really draws my interest and drawing my family's interest with them. I'm just sitting back and waiting for my time to come so that I can talk to them."
Patience will be the theme for what Richardson plans to be a very deliberate recruiting process. He refuses to put any firm deadline on arriving at the right decision.
"I'm just really trying to enjoy every bit of this process because I know it only comes once," he said. "I want to see as many schools as I can. Right now there is no timeline. I'll visit schools and if I'm comfortable with the school, as well as my family, I will make that decision right then and there. It could be today, it could be tomorrow, you never know.
"The number one thing I'm concerned with is finding the right situation. It doesn't matter if it's in state or out of state. I want a great school that has very, very high standards when it comes to academics. I want to graduate from a school where if football does not work out, I have a very, very useable degree that I can fall back on. I want the football program to be very stable — not a lot of drama with the coaching staffs switching and stuff. I want a very nice system that I love. Overall, I just want the campus atmosphere and the situation to be great."
Another factor, albeit a minor one, could be the decisions of two of his good friends. Cass Tech linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone and Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker James "Biggs" Ross are highly regarded prospects in their own right. The three youngsters were teammates on the renowned Detroit Police Athletic League team, the Westside Cubs. It was during that time that the trio made a pact to play college football together. However, as the years have passed that boyhood dream has given way to individual needs. Still, a common football future something they often discuss.
"I think Royce is very, very high on Michigan, but me and my boy Biggs are just trying to see other schools," Richardson said. "We don't want to be too (set) on just one school right now because it is very early in the process. You never know what might come in. Me and Royce talk about (recruiting) every day because we go to the same school. When me and Biggs talk, we talk about making sure that we go to the right school.
"But you never know -- one school may end up being the right school for all of us. We'll just have to see if that's what it is."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the “Michigan Insider” morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA.