Richards hopes to fortify Arizona’s passing attack

TUCSON, Ariz. — David Richards isn’t about the play the “what if” game.

It serves no purpose.
It’s the here and now that’s important for Richards and the Arizona Wildcats.

And right now, Richards is back to help a group of receivers that have struggled through four games.
So forget that he was out for the first three games, and that star receiver Austin Hill could miss the entire season.

“We have the guys we have,” said Richards, a 6-foot-4 receiver sophomore. “We’re probably not going to have Austin (anytime soon), so we can’t think we have Austin. The guys we have right now will get the job done.”

Through four games, Arizona’s receivers as a group have 45 total receptions and two touchdowns.

And while quarterback B.J. Denker has taken a lion’s share of the criticism for the struggles of Arizona’s passing game, the receivers have to share in that, too.

Denker is realistic enough to know you work with what you have.

“Everyone knows Austin is a great talent, but David is going to come in and step up and make some plays,” Denker said. “He’s here to make plays; it’s a reason why he worked his butt off to come back. (Richards) is going to be a big target for us, especially in the red zone. Even in short yardage, he’ll get his big body in front of defenders.”

First, Richards must continue to get back into game shape following surgery to repair a broken foot. It was delayed by a bruise about three weeks ago. He wasn’t a factor in his season debut last week against Washington,  failing to catch a pass, but is hoping to make a larger impact in Thursday night’s game at USC.

“It was more difficult than I thought, but I just have to keep working,” Richards said. “I did feel good to be out there with my teammates, that was the best part.

“I’m highly motivated to go back to California and play in front of my family and friends. This is one of the bigger games.”

Richards came into the season as one of Arizona’s most seasoned receivers, finishing with 29 receptions and three touchdowns last year. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said Richards is getting more reps this week.

Richards joins senior Terrance Miller in giving the Wildcats a pair of big bodies at the receiver position. To this point, Miller has been used minimally — catching just three passes while also lining up t tight end.

“We haven’t thrown the ball as well as we need to … but Terrance is extremely valuable because he can play outside, inside and can play tight end,” Rodriguez said. “He’s done a good job blocking, but we need to use him more.”

Miller said he’ll fill whatever role is needed.

“I haven’t really thought about (the stats), but I actually look forward to getting bigger blocks than receptions,” Miller said. “Obvious as a receiver you hope to have more receptions and you always want the ball. Every receiver thinks they are open, but for the most part I’m thinking about blocks.

“I’m pretty comfortable anywhere. I know all the positions and where I play is random but part of the game plan. Yes, it’s a tough job, but Coach Rodriguez puts that on my shoulders because he feels I can handle it. And I know I can handle it.”

Miller says Richards’ return helps him, too.

“We don’t have that many big wideouts in the lineup right now,” Miller said. “Getting him back now allows me more flexibility and a little more versatility to our offense. We can do more things with bigger guys.”

Rodriguez said the passing game has looked better in recent practices, which leads him to believe it’ll get better in games.

“Until we do it in a game, everyone is going to question it,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t blame them, because I question it. We have guys who are capable of doing it. We work extremely hard in practice to do it … in all facets. I’ve been encouraged what I’ve seen the last couple of weeks.”