Sheldon Richardson expects to make noise for Missouri football in the SEC

Friday, September 7, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:06 a.m. CDT, Friday, September 7, 2012
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson spent the summer focused on getting in shape and studying tapes to prepare for the 2012 season. Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said the team is counting on Richardson to have a "huge impact."

COLUMBIA — Sheldon Richardson watches a lot of film. He watches hours and hours of film.

The senior Missouri defensive tackle even owns a VCR, so he can watch film during his down time.

He watches "The Lion King", "The Little Mermaid" and several more Disney movies he owns on VHS. Recently, he watched "The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride."

"Simba grows up. He finds out some stuff and Scar has a child or something like that," Richardson laughed. "Man, it's a long story I can't get into it."

Richardson also watches film of Missouri's upcoming opponents. During the summer, he watched film for four, five and sometimes six hours a day, trying to learn tendencies of different offensive coordinators. Richardson looks to find out what type of plays they like to call in "tight situations."

He also observes different steps and moves he can use to create pressure on offenses. Richardson says he has always been able to learn things from watching film, he just was never this serious about it.

"I could always take stuff from film and get it pretty easily, but I wasn't really interested in watching film like I am now," Richardson said. "I just realized you've got to be a student of the game."

That's not the only change Richardson made this year.  By all accounts, he has been much more impressive this year than he was last season. Looking back at himself, Richardson sees a player that was out of shape.

"Last year I took plays off. I was a little out of shape," Richardson said. "I used to run to the ball until I couldn't run to the ball no more, but I was a little out of shape. (Weighing) 315 (pounds) will do that to you. I'm 290 (pounds) right now, and I'm feeling pretty good."

It started with a healthier diet. Richardson quit eating fast food in April and instead eats more salads, eggs and foods grilled rather than fried. Now, he says the thought of McDonald's makes him sick to his stomach.

"I don't eat fried chicken no more," Richardson said, before continuing. "Try not to anyway, as much as I can."

The lean defensive tackle had a strong fall camp. Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski says the team is counting on Richardson to have a "huge impact." Kuligowski is confident that the slimmed down defensive tackle will be effective in the SEC, where more teams like to run the ball.

"We don't need a 360-pound guy to go in there and take on three blocks because we don't do that," Kuligowski said. "Sometimes we've got to play extra physical. That may be more often than we saw in the past."

As much as Richardson likes to joke around, he gets serious about football.

"I think our guys like to have fun," Kuligowski said. "There's times when we have to be serious and focused. Sheldon's probably one of the best guys about saying, 'Hey let's get focused.'"

During the Tigers' second preseason scrimmage, as the first-team defense left the field, Richardson confronted the defensive lineman after they failed to get pressure on a play. Richardson talked through the play and went over what would have been the correct execution.

He won't let his teammates get by without playing well, but he holds himself to an even higher standard.

In a drill during one of the Missouri football team's last practices of training camp, Sheldon Richardson lined up opposite left tackle Elvis Fisher.

The drill is simple. The defensive lineman, Richardson, just has to touch a tackling dummy representing a quarterback. The only thing stopping him is a single offensive lineman.

Richardson jumped off the line of scrimmage, already with a head start outside to the left of Fisher, who back-peddled and opened up to meet Richardson.

Richardson made the sharp turn towards the dummy, driving Fisher back steadily. Richardson tried to reach out, but couldn't. His hands were pinned down to his stomach by the arms of Fisher, who held Richardson off just long enough to make him miss the dummy.

Richardson, clearly upset with himself, walked away looking straight up with a smile on his face while Fisher taunted him. The defensive tackle laughed about it and credited Fisher for making a good play in the drill.

"At practice of course I'm friendly. These are my teammates," Richardson said. "At games, I'm the complete opposite. Can't really tell you what I say out there."

Richardson brings a completely different mindset into games. At practice, he has to hold back his play. Defenders are not allowed to hit the quarterback at practice. In games, hitting the quarterback is at the top of his job description.

Last season, Richardson recorded  only two sacks in a reserve role. It was his first year at Missouri after transferring from the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif.

"Coming in from high school and juco to here is such a jump," defensive end Brad Madison said. "He was so athletically talented that he did well last year, but now that he knows how to play at this level and he's athletically talented, I think it's going to be a good year for him."

Richardson has already made headlines with his comments about Georgia on Saturday.

"I watched that game," Richardson said, referring to Georgia's 45-23 win  against Buffalo on Saturday. "I turned it off, too."

"It's like watching Big Ten football," he said. "It's old-man football."

Clearly, Richardson is not interested in "old-man football." He still watches children's cartoons such as "Phineas and Ferb" on the Disney Channel, along with all his Disney movies.

Richardson can continue to watch TV like a child. But, his teammates and coaches will expect him to play football like a grown man Saturday after his comments.

"If we execute, nobody in this league can touch us. Period," Richardson said.

The league is the SEC.  Though Missouri hasn't even played its first game in the conference, a story about Richardson's comments has hundreds of comments from readers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's UGA Sports blog.

Richardson has never been one to shy away from the spotlight. Even on the first day of training camp, he was yelling at teammates to get out of his camera shot for photographers during team stretches.

"I see myself as a dominant force, like I did in high school, and junior college," Richardson said. "And that's just how I look at life. Make sure I'm dominating every aspect of my life. Can't ever doubt yourself. Never doubt yourself. Can't."

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