April 7, 2006
ATLANTA–With Georgia Tech nearing the halfway point of spring practice, the Yellow Jackets’ defensive line appears to be a strong point, and one of the sources of that strength is the return of sophomore defensive tackle Darryl Richard.
After a very promising freshman season in 2004, Richard missed the entire 2005 season after injuring his right knee last spring and undergoing reconstructive surgery.
“I’m running well, but you can run as many wind sprints as you want; once you put the pads on, it’s different, so I’m working toward optimal football conditioning,” said Richard, who started four games as a freshman and had four sacks and seven tackles for loss.
One of the silver linings to the redshirt year was the opportunity for Richard to work in the weight room.
“I’ve gotten stronger, especially in my hips and upper body, so that’s definitely a plus,” said Richard, a native of Destrehan, La.
When asked how the added strength translates on the field, he said, “You can blow people off the ball. Meeting and defeating. That’s our focus on the d-line – we want to meet and defeat blocks. Having great hips and good upper body helps you take control.”
Head coach Chan Gailey agreed that the biggest difference in Richard is strength.
“He is so much stronger than he was as a true freshman,” said Gailey. “He is extremely strong and explosive and powerful right now.”
Richard joins a front line that graduated all-conference defensive end and three-year starter Eric Henderson but remains strong with the return of senior tackle Joe Anoai and junior end Adamm Oliver. Richard’s return allowed Tech to move senior Mansfield Wrotto, a three-year starter at defensive tackle, to offensive tackle.
Junior defensive end Darrell Robertson moves into the starting lineup to replace Henderson, with promising sophomore Michael Johnson also seeing a lot of action. Sophomore Vance Walker is the top backup at tackle.
“One thing about football is that you have to learn to play with the people around you,” said Richard. “Michael Johnson is not the same person as Eric Henderson. Darrell Robertson isn’t Eric Henderson. So you learn to play with the people around you. You learn how to play to their strengths and even how to work around their weaknesses. As a front four, we have to develop that chemistry because we don’t have the same four starters returning. You have to know what the people around you are doing, so that’s one thing I’m learning this spring.
“We know we’re going to play six-to-eight guys come the season, and we all have to get used to playing with each other, so that’s what we’re focusing on this spring.”
Tech continues spring practice with its first scrimmage of the spring, scheduled for Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium. In the event of rain, practice will move to the artificial surface at Rose Bowl Field.