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Confidence restored, Huskies' Richardson reclaims starting job

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Washington junior cornerback Quinton Richardson has been practicing with the first-team UW defense.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Washington junior cornerback Quinton Richardson has been practicing with the first-team UW defense.

  • Washington cornerback Quinton Richardson stretches before a Washington football practice earlier this month.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Washington cornerback Quinton Richardson stretches before a Washington football practice earlier this month.

SEATTLE -- Quinton Richardson can't pinpoint the exact moment when it happened.
All Richardson, a University of Washington junior cornerback, knows for sure is that because the switch flipped, he is back in the position where he is today.
Sometime last season, Richardson stopped feeling sorry for himself and started finding motivation in defeat. And that's when it happened.
"It just hit me," said Richardson, a two-year starter who lost his job midway through the 2009 season but is back running with the first team this month. "You may not want to admit it, but you start feeling sorry for yourself. But there's no whining, no complaining, no excuses. There were no excuses for me to not be out there (as a starter), so I just kept working and working and working."
With a renewed sense of confidence, the junior has earned back his starting job and is going to do everything he can not to let it go this time around. Richardson has shown the coaching staff the kind of consistency that was missing last season, and it's looking more and more like he will be back in the starting lineup when the Huskies open at Brigham Young University in eight days.
"He's had a nice fall camp for the last week," defensive coordinator Nick Holt said Thursday morning. "We always knew he had the ability. It's just getting mentally more consistent with coming out here and working every day."
The Huskies had high hopes for Richardson this time last season, but things went bad after he struggled in the first month of the season. He lost his confidence along the way and soon lost his starting job to freshman Adam Long.
"It was real hard," Richardson said this week. "No one likes to start the season off good and then just decline. That wasn't my plan at all.
"But that's why they give you four years: to grow and get better. It is my junior year, and I plan on growing and getting better and keeping a good mindset all season."
In a sense, Richardson is still learning the cornerback position. He arrived at UW as a safety in 2007 after playing linebacker at Seattle's O'Dea High School, only to end up at cornerback.
With NFL size -- he's now listed at 6 feet, 200 pounds -- Richardson certainly passes the eyeball test. But he has struggled at times in coverage while starting for one of the Pac-10's worst defenses over the past two years.
In effect, his confidence has taken a hit. And that, more than anything else, is what cost Richardson his starting job last year. Long started the final six games, and Richardson barely saw the field on defense throughout the month of November.
It was enough to scuff the shine off even the most polished diamond.
This fall, Richardson vows to keep his chin up.
"Confidence is internal," he said. "It's something that all starts with me. It starts with me making plays, and then the rest of the guys believe in me.
"... Being a corner, you win some and you lose some. I've got to take my losses and move on; that's the biggest thing. It's about learning from my mistakes. No one's perfect. Everyone's going to make mistakes. It's just how I come back from them."
The key now is for Richardson to regain the confidence of the Huskies. Holt likes Richardson's mindset as the season approaches, but he's still curious about how the cornerback will react when the real games begin.
"It seems to be that way right now, and hopefully it'll continue to be that way," Holt said of Richardson being in the right frame of mind. "I'm excited for him. We'll wait and see. It's a long season, and hopefully he'll continue to be consistent."
With Long, senior Vonzell McDowell Jr. and speedy freshman Gregory Ducre waiting to make a move, Richardson has plenty of competition should he slip up again. Through spring ball and the fall camp that officially wrapped up Thursday, Richardson has run almost exclusively with the first team.
"Quinton's playing much more consistent football," head coach Steve Sarkisian said. "I think he flashed last year. He'd make a great play, then bust something here, bust something there, get beat. What he's showing in this training camp is that he can be more consistent."
Rather than continue to feel sorry for himself, Richardson found a way to use last season's benching as motivation.
"That was a real big part of me coming back this season," he said this week. "After that Cal game (in the 2009 season finale), it's something that's getting me going -- through weights, through workouts, whatever -- it's something that was like: 'Man, I got to get that starting spot back.'"
As the Huskies' 2010 opener approaches, Richardson appears to have done just that. If nothing else, Richardson has his swag back. And that's a welcome sight for the teammates who watched him struggle as a sophomore.
"He had a hard time (last season), but he's coming back mentally strong," said wide receiver Devin Aguilar, one of Richardson's closest friends on the team.
"He deserves everything that's coming to him this year," added teammate Mason Foster. "He's worked through all the tough times, and now he's ready to put a stamp on his game and show what he can really do -- you know, bust out."
Notes
Starting middle linebacker Cort Dennison (knee) sat out practices for a fourth straight day, but Sarkisian continues to show a lack of concern about the injury. While Dennison has been sidelined, true freshman Garret Gilliland has taken most of the first-team reps and has made an impression on the coaches. "He's going to have a very bright future for us," Holt said. ... The Huskies officially wrapped up fall camp on Thursday morning. They had a closed practice Thursday afternoon and will have another closed session today. Saturday marks the first day of pre-BYU practice sessions. ... BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters this week that the battle between quarterbacks Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson is "dead even" and added that he won't name a starter until next week. Heaps is a true freshman from Skyline High School who picked BYU over the Huskies last fall.
Story tags » Huskies Football

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