Cal secured it's eighth verbal commitment of the 2013 class today when Narbonne (Harbor City, CA) wide receiver AJ Richardson announced for the Golden Bears via twitter. Richardson joins QB Jared Goff, TE Ray Hudson, and OL Cameron Hunt as Cal's fourth commit on the offensive side of the ball.
Los Angeles newspaper The Daily Breeze first broke the story on AJ's commitment (before he'd actually announced). Here are some quotes from the man himself about the decision:
"I loved the vibe and the weather, and I know a couple of people up there, so I won't be a stranger. It felt like home," Richardson said. "I kind of fell in love with it. My family and I felt it was the best decision."
Verbal commitments are non-binding, but Richardson said he does not plan on waffling.
"This is rock solid," said Richardson
In the 2011 season, Richardson recorded 63 receptions for 947 yards and 9 touchdowns for Narbonne. He also rushed 21 times for an additional 355 yards and one more touchdown. His efforts helped Narbonne capture the LA City Section title last season, and saw him selected to the 2nd Team, All-Marine League. He's a sure-handed, athletic receiver who runs good routes and has good speed. I like this get.
After the jump, we'll look at AJ's measurables and rankings, along with some highlights and analysis.
Welcome to Cal, AJ. Go Bears!
MEASURABLES AND RANKINGS
Weight: 185 lbs
Rivals ranks AJ as a 3-star (5.5) prospect.
Scout ranks AJ as a 3-star prospect and the #78 WR in the country.
247 ranks AJ as a 3-star (84) prospect.
ESPN ranks AJ as a 3-star (75) prospect.
AJ committed to Cal over offers from Duke, Hawaii, Houston, San Diego State, Nevada, and New Mexico State. He was also receiving interest from Boise State, Washington, Utah, and Arizona. San Diego State offered Richardson as an athlete, and liked him as a safety.
ANALYSIS AND THOUGHTS
On film, we see Richardson lined up in the slot quite a bit. Makes sense, as his quickness and vision make him very effective off of screens and swing passes. While Richardson is not a burner, his speed is more than adequate and he does flash the kind of wheels to outrun defenders a few times. I think that vision helps a lot too, as he seems to find openings and understand angles well. We also see him utilized on jet sweeps, a testament to his playmaking abilities with the ball in his hands, and his aforementioned vision and recognition. His size and strength are good, and he uses them to his advantage when necessary. I also appreciate a bigger receiver than is comfortable in the slot, a la Mike Calvin last season, especially when said receiver has the agility and ball skills to excel at it.
Richardson also displays some good route running; making nice cuts and creating separation from DB's. He seems to have a knack for getting open, which is a trait you always like in a receiver. The fact that many of his catches seem to come with plenty of YAC is nice too; he maximizes the yardage he can get once he has the ball. That manifests itself as dragging a couple defenders along with him or outrunning them to the end zone on a few occasions. He's got some very good hands too, which really should matter more than just about anything else when evaluating a wide receiver. Richardson doesn't drop many balls, and I'm guessing this was demonstrated when he worked out for the Cal staff on his unofficial visit and earned his offer.
So perhaps the questions is...why does Richardson not have a more impressive offer list? Well, I don't really know. He has adequate speed and actually plays pretty fast, but maybe not the "elite" speed that other touted wide receivers possess. His teammate and Narbonne QB, UW commit Troy Williams, is a highly touted prospect. Are Richardson's impressive stats simply a byproduct of Narbonne's pass-heavy offense and a talented quarterback? These are really the only things I can think of that could explain the lack of attention Richardson has received thus far in the recruiting cycle.
In my opinion, he's plenty good, certainly worthy of his Cal offer, and we should be glad to have him. He accounted for over 1200 yards of offense last season to go with double -digit scores in a tough Marine League. As previously stated, Richardson has very good hands, runs solid routes, possesses great athleticism and agility, and gets open. He also has the size and versatility to play in the slot or out wide, and could even present a threat in the run game. That's a pretty strong package. After the haul we brought in last year, we'll only take a couple of wide receivers in 2013. Getting a guy like Richardson is a good addition.
So join me in welcoming the newest Golden Bear into the fold. Let's hear your thoughts in the comments. GO BEARS.