FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Senior defensive end Gabe Richardson is preparing for his senior season.
Not only is he in mix to start at defensive end, but he’s also taken on an additional leadership role. Richardson talked about the leadership aspect of his game.
“That leadership didn’t come from who I was talking to, it was the way I was talking to them,” Richardson said. “Making them understand, that’s the energy we need. We don’t need anybody getting cussed out every single play. We don’t need none of them. We need positivity out of our room. You want to bring the best of your guys each and every day. That’s what you want.”
Richardson’s leadership may have taken on a new level when it comes to true freshman defensive end Mataio Soli.
“I’m with Soli every day,” Richardson said. “He’s from Atlanta, just like me, so we roll home together. We bust that 10-hour ride. I even taught him how to drive. I got him on the road. He drove about four hours. His mom was kind of worried. I was on the phone with her while he was driving (telling her he was doing OK). Soli is with me every single day. So I’m teaching him off the field. How to be a better person.”
Chad Morris talked about his trio of senior defensive ends on Monday. In addition to Richardson, Arkansas has Dorian Gerald and Jamario Bell.
“Well, Dorian is a guy that’s got 114, or 100 and whatever the season is, so his whole career comes down to the next 114 days and how he approaches one day at a time, how his preparation is,” Morris said. “So, really we’re challenging those guys. You got to prepare every day as if it’s your last day because it’s ticking down for them. So, I’ve seen a difference in Dorian, I really have.
“Gabe, again, he’s a true leader. Gabe is vocal and he’s holding his own out there. He’s doing some good things and helping provide some depth at that position. Gabe, Dorian and Jamario are three guys that we have to have production from for that position to be successful for us.”
Richardson used an example of a hammer and nail to describe the depth at defensive end.
“You hammer the nail,” Richardson said. “Growing up I’ve seen that hammer snap a little bit. You’re snapping too much. Sometimes you’ve got to have another great hammer and some other things to get the nail down where it needs to be to hold things in place.
“Them some big hammers we’ve got over here at the defensive end spot. We’ve always given our best effort to become better, grow closer and do what we do best.”
This past offseason, Morris took the Razorback stuff away from the players forcing them to earn it back. Richardson feels that’s when the buy-in started.
“When we were walking all the way from the football lot all the way to the stadium at 5 in the morning in 12-degree weather,” Richardson said. “And having to get all the way to weight room on time, dressed in nothing Razorback gear. No Nike or anything.
“We had to go through a different kind of grind when we got back here. We had to understand we had to start from square one. All the way from the bottom. That urgency to do that, we had to bring the team together. We had to become brothers. That bond right there, nobody can take from us.”
Richardson finished in 2018 with 13 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, a pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and one recovered fumble. Richardson came to Arkansas from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. This is your third year in program how do you feel you have developed?
“I’ve learned a lot off the field that has gotten me to where I am on the field,” Richardson said. “I had to be more mature and be a better leader. Understanding where this team needs me.”
Richardson likes what John Chavis has brought to the defense since arriving following the coaching change.
“Coach Chavis gave us a chance to come here and do what we do best and that’s pass rush,” Richardson said. “Be great defensive ends. In this system, the team does need us to be at our best and we’re expected to be at our best.
“We’ve got to have guys rotate and we’ve got a great depth chart. We’re fixing to be able to play fast and honest to our best potential each and every down.”
Richardson feels the 2018 season that didn’t go well serves as some motivation for this fall.
“The grind we put in definitely did change us a bit,” Richardson said. “But we’ll see exactly where it pays off when we hit that grass Aug. 31. Doesn’t matter who we play against or where we play them. We’ve got to go out there and execute like we have all summer and winter conditioning. Just make sure we’re at our best.”
Richardson feels the team this fall can prove a lot of prognosticators wrong if things fall in place.
“Great if we execute,” Richardson said. “We’re gonna shock some things. We’re gonna be the best we can and play some Arkansas Razorback Football.”
One area of the team that is still up for grabs as far as the starter is quarterback. Richardson talked about what he has seen from that group.
“I like the way they compete,” Richardson said. “They continue to evaluate each other and give positive feedback. They don’t play into the BCD, blame, complain and get defensive. These guys are really getting after it knowing we need somebody to step up for this team.
“Now we need one, maybe two or three, it doesn’t matter, we need to step out there in the pocket and run this team like it needs to be done.”
Richardson talked about what he considers his own strength on the field.
“My strength is continue to be positive and buy into that nurture where this team needs that energy,” Richardson said. “Stay level-headed. Understand what we’ve got to do that very next play. Sometimes you’ve got to have quick turnaround. You have to forget what happened that last play and go on to the next one. You’ve got to go out there and play that next step.”