MORGANTOWN — If you catch University senior Amir Richardson watching film in preparation of tonight’s Homecoming game against Buckhannon-Upshur, you might think he has his eye on the Buccaneers starting quarterback, or perhaps their stable of wide receivers.
In reality, the Hawks’ safety has eyes for only two players, the offensive guards along the Bucs front line.
That’s because B-U runs a deadly triple option offense, known for lulling opponents with a power run game and then burning its opponent’s secondary with deep, play-action passes. Richardson doesn’t want to become another victim.
“The biggest thing is we have to read our keys. There is no reason a team should be able to beat us with play action,” Richardson said. “If the guards stand up, it’s a pass. It’s all about staying disciplined and watching.”
Discipline is a focal point for the Hawks secondary, as they had a bit of a rough start in a new defensive scheme, according to coach John Kelley.
“When they’re playing in the secondary, we number the receivers. There was individual confusion on who to cover,” he said.
“At Fairmont Senior and John Marshall, we shut things down but had one guy running free because we were confused on who to cover. Now they’re getting more comfortable and paying more attention.”
Richardson attributes the struggles to inexperience following the loss of many experienced pass defenders from last season’s 11-1 squad.
“We lost three starting defensive backs last year, and it’s been tough replacing them. I feel like our struggles this year has been more due to inexperience than lack of talent,” he said.
Even with the initial challenges, the unit is appearing to blossom into a force that should not be taken lightly. The Hawks have nabbed seven interceptions in their past three games and gave up just 18 yards through the air during a Week 7 loss at Mountain Ridge (Md.).
“It all starts in practice. Our scout team has done a good job getting us good looks, and more guys are watching film to learn more on their assignments,” Richardson said.
“Also, Coach (Tony) Richardson and Coach (Jason) White are doing are good job of preparing us and getting us into position. We’re playing better and it’s getting better each game.”
Entering against B-U, the Hawks are 3-4 as a team, barely inside of the Class AAA top 16 — Richardson knows he and his partners in the secondary need to step up and play big during the final stretch of the season to have hopes continuing the season past their Week 10 matchup with Morgantown.
“At this point, the biggest key is buying in. We have to believe in each other and that this season isn’t over,” he said. It’s a different feeling this year than last year — are we going to win or are we going to lose? This is adversity we’re facing, we either need to show up or we’re going to have a short season.”