August 31, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers offensive linesman Antonio Richardson (74) celebrates in the second half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at the Georgia Dome. Tennessee beat NC State 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee had one of the biggest, strongest and most complete offensive lines in all of college football led by their left tackle and their only underclassmen in the starting five, Antonio Richardson. Richardson was not perfect but given a brutal schedule against some of the most talented pass rushers in the country, he held his own for the most part and certainly gave the Volunteers the opportunity to win with him protecting the edge.
Going towards the NFL, Richardson is a solid all-around tackle that should only better with time and hard work. He makes it tough as opponents really have to work to get around him and combined with his arm length, he seems to have a good amount of time to potentially recover and catch the opponent before they can get past him. Richardson brings a good amount of strength in the running game but needs to take more advantage with better leverage. He can play with a meaner streak as well as take better angles to hit opponents in space. Richardson projects as a top 50 pick that could end up at left or right tackle but he could easily find his name called in round one because of how quickly tackles fly off of the board.
Vitals & Build
Richardson is listed at 6’6” 327lbs and is an enormous player who stands out in a game of giants. He has good strength and ballast for the offensive line and is more athletic than people might think. His short area quickness can be good but it is not consistent and his feet flash the ability to be good, especially for his size. It would not be a huge surprise if Richardson actually dropped a few pounds to try to get quicker and more athletic but he looks like he can continue to get stronger, but the biggest thing that will help him is working to improve the quickness of his feet, overall balance and body control so that he is lighter on his feet.
Richardson is athletic given his size and he can move pretty well. He has some habits that can result in him playing slower than capable. Richardson is more suited for a power scheme than one that asks for a lot of pulling and moving the pocket around but he has some ability to move around if he improves some technique and shows more consistent effort, especially when it comes to blocking down and getting to the second level.
He needs to do a better job once he gets into space in terms of breaking down and making plays, but when he wants to get there, he has shown he can do it. And in those situations, he is a load.
The issue that hurts him in terms of his athleticism is how heavy footed he can be at times, resulting in his weight shifting too much. In those situations, he can get caught going too far to one side and open the door for opponents to beat him.
Richardson can be a great run blocker but he needs to do a better job with his technique and when it comes to finishing plays. He can show a great first step and create momentum with his size that enables him to generate a great deal of power in a hurry. Richardson can create space and open up running lanes but seems too satisfied and shuts it down once he has established position. While he does a good job of getting angles and shielding the opponent from the ball carrier, when opportunities are there for him to drive a defender into the ground, he seems to let them off the hook.
Additionally, there are times when he will play a little too tall and gets off balance and loses power as a result. When he has played some extremely talented opponents, he will win a number of battles but will get beaten. Opponents who do not give up and have a great motor with second and third efforts can get the best of Richardson. He is by no means a lazy player but once his job is completed, he is moving onto the next play rather than looking to make another block or send a message to the opponent.
The talent and strength is there for Richardson to be a mean, drive blocker who can really dominate opponents, especially when he has a massive size advantage. If he opts to finish some of those blocks and set the tone by crushing opponents, he will actually make his job of pass blocking a little easier with a simple mental edge. Whether he adopts a meaner streak or not remains to be seen but he has the capability to be tremendous in this area of the game. He flashes it when it comes to blocking down and cleaning up some defenders for teammates, but his angles and accuracy are not always there.
Richardson can get to the second level, though not as consistently as teams might like. He does not always seem enthusiastic to get there but he is reasonably accurate on making sure he can land the block when he gets there.
There is a good amount of ability and even more potential in this area of Richardson’s game, but it is still a work in progress. His wingspan and sheer ballast make him a pain to get around for opponents and that gives him a natural edge to keep opponents under control. His ability to mirror can be good but there are times when he will lose an opponent and get beaten. Richardson is susceptible to speed rushes to the outside and opponents who fake outside and shoot the gap.
He has the quickness and agility to get outside but he is not always sure on when he should use it and there appears to be a slight fear in the back of his mind that someone is setting him up to attack the B gap.
Richardson is well suited to hold up against a bull rush as long as he is sitting down in his stance. When he sits down, he is incredibly difficult to push back, but when opponents can catch him tall, particularly when they catch going from speed to power, he can get himself in trouble, give up power and have a little trouble re-anchoring. Because of his sheer size, he has usually been able to recover in time, but there are times when guys have beaten him and taken advantage of that window. It is not always easy to slide and keep a balanced, low base but that is something he needs to improve upon in the NFL.
Perhaps one of the easiest improvements that Richardson should be able to improve is his angles in pass protection. At times, he seems to get lost as to what way he should square up against the opponent and he ends up engaging them in positions where they can work into the pocket. This is not a question of quickness or being lazy in terms of feet, but merely the angle he takes on the block when he engages contact. If he can do that, he would make his life much easier.
Richardson’s long arms make his life easier but he needs to do a better job taking advantage of them. Especially as a run blocker but even as a pass blocker, showing a more consistent and more effective punch would help him. It will make him play with more power and if he can jolt the opponent, it will make getting in position and shielding opponents off in either facet of the game.
He needs to do a better job of maintain hand position in general as he can periodically lose blocks and have opponents outlast him in terms of hand fighting. Again, the potential is there but he just needs to continue his development and do a better job in that respect.
Richardson can be a grabber at times, which his quarterback will ultimately appreciate. When Richardson is going to get beat, he will grab on and hope he does not get called rather than let the opponent go and build up momentum to knock out the quarterback. He will get called for some holding penalties, but his quarterback is not picking himself up off of the ground because of Richardson’s guy. Some of this is due to the fact that Richardson’s shoulders are so broad that he naturally ends up on the outside of opponents but when they get an angle on him, he can grab or end up around the neck.
Richardson has more athletic feet than his techniques can sometimes indicate. His ability to mirror is still developing and he is cautious going outside at times in what appears to be a worry about opening up the inside lane. He shows the ability to kick slide well but can get inconsistent at times and can get caught in between steps and be knocked off balance.
The issue for Richardson that can pop up is how he shifts his weight at times. He can take some big, heavy steps that shift his weight and make it tough for him to cut back inside to take away inside moves. As a result, opponents will set him up outside and come back in and have success. It can also have him lunge at times and get caught working outside while the opponent slips underneath.
When asked to pull, Richardson often has a little jump before getting into the pull, which is a habit that needs to go away. He slows himself down by doing it and his jab step in pass protection is far quicker than his first step to get into a pull. The whole motion looks too mechanical and routine rather than looking like a guy who is tearing over to get in position and often times Richardson is late. He is going to need to develop quicker feet to be a consistent threat when pulling, but eliminating that bad habit would make him get there faster.
Richardson needs to take better angles when it comes to making blocks in space. When he is right, he can hit with a ton of power and pancake the opponent, but he is not accurate enough with his angles to hit opponents in space.
Trying to speed up his footwork is certainly going to be at a premium for a tackle anyway, but especially one of Richardson’s size, but his habits and technique could speed him up as much as anything. If he can get just more comfortable in his foot work, it would help make him look quicker and play more effectively.
He also needs to keep working throughout the play as there are times when it appears as though he uses the least amount of effort possible to get the job done to save his energy for the whole game. At times, he gets outlasted and part of that is due to stopping his feet and not fighting all the way through the whistle.
Where Richardson will play is dependent on which team drafts him, but he is well suited to play in a power type scheme. He needs to play with more consistency and a meaner streak but if he can protect the passer, he will go early. Teams like Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Buffalo might really like what he brings to the table for their respective systems. Richardson is the type of player who can be great at either side and it will all depend on how bad he wants to be great.
Richardson’s game is similar to that of former Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Flozell Adams. The former Michigan State never looked pretty in how he blocked but he ended up getting the job done in the end. Both Adams and Richardson are huge with incredibly wide bodies who get some penalties call on them and look like they should be playing on the right side but do the job on the blind side.
Richardson’s physical strength, size and ballast make him an attractive player. His footwork is good enough but can get better, especially with how he shifts his weight, but he can do the job. Richardson could end up being a player that is attractive to teams that are looking for help at either side of the offensive line. He is not a finished product but he has the potential to improve once he gets into the NFL and gets with an offensive line coach that can really work with him on his technique. Richardson projects more like a top 50 pick, but could easily see his name picked in the first round as the offensive tackles start flying off the shelves early.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com