If you are listing players on UM’s offense who could be elite, any list should start with a player who has already proven he can be: receiver Ahmmon Richards.
Richards was exceptional in 2016, catching 49 passes for 934 yards (19.1 per catch) and three touchdowns and culminating his first season at UM by being named a freshman All American.
But Richards’ sophomore season was an adversity-filled disappointment. He sustained a hamstring injury during fall practice and was never quite the same, finishing with 24 catches for 439 yards and three touchdowns.
Then he injured the meniscus in his left knee four days before the ACC championship game.
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Now Richards says has been cleared medically to do everything in informal player workouts that began in recent days.
“I am 100 percent go,” he said in an interview with WQAM’s Joe Rose and Zach Krantz. “I'm doing great, feeling better than ever. I am about right there, running routes and all that stuff.”
Meanwhile, Richards revealed that he didn’t merely strain his hamstring last August; he tore it.
“It was tough,” he said. “I started from camp where I tore my hamstring. It was hard to get back as soon as I can and help the team as fast as I can. I wanted to help the team so bad. It was a battle mentally, physically. I think it's going to help me out in the long run.”
Last season, when he missed six games, “I wanted to play so bad and do the best I can. [But] it's hard trying to play with one leg. It's one of those things you have to fight through. I felt like I was being tested. I feel like I'll be better in the long run.”
Richards should be the leader of a loaded group of receivers that includes Jeff Thomas, Mike Harley, Lawrence Cager, Darrell Langham, Evidence Njoku, January arrivals Brian Hightower and Daquris Wiggins and May arrivals Mark Pope and Marquez Ezzard.
On Pope, who’s rated a five-star prospect by Rivals, Richards said: “I've worked out with him a few times. He's the real deal — quick, can get open, runs great routes. He's definitely going to contribute to this team.”
Richards is effusive about this incoming class.
“The guys that are coming in, I don't see them as freshmen,” he said. “Guys like Pope, [Lorenzo] Lingard, Wiggins, Hightower — I see them playing on Saturday. They are going to help this team right away.”
Asked by Rose which player has made a big jump, he first mentioned Cager: “Watching him every day, he definitely got better.”
UM is pursuing Richards’ brother, Wellington High four-star all purpose running back Marc Antony Richards, who is rated by Rivals as the 23rd best Class of 2019 prospect. And while Ahmmon Richards would love for his brother to attend UM, “I don't want to force him to do anything he doesn't want to do,” Richards said.
UM remains among numerous schools in the mix for Marc Antony.
Please scroll to the bottom of my piece from earlier this week here with an update on the site for the 2019 UM-FIU football game.