When it comes to coaching 1,000-yard running backs, Terry Richardson knows what he's doing. As the running backs coach at UConn the last 12 years, Richardson had six running backs eclipse the 1,000-yard mark -- including one, Colts running back Donald Brown, run for an NCAA-leading 2,083 yards in 2008.
Richardson, who met with reporters Thursday afternoon inside the Edgerrin James room, believes the Hurricanes have more than enough talent to have a 1,000-yard back too. UM hasn't had one since Willis McGahee ran for a school record 1,753 yards in 2002. But with Richardson -- a former local star tailback at Oakland Park Northeast High and Syracuse -- now in charge of the 'Canes backfield, it's almost inevitable Lamar Miller, Mike James or Storm Johnson will be the next UM running back to run for more than 1,000.
"Normally in the past, I've worked with three guys -- three tailbacks, two fullbacks and worked with those five guys," Richardson said Thursday. "If there's a big separation between No. 1 and 2, obviously No. 1 gets the majority of the carries. If it's even where that No. 2 guy is better than a tired, winded No. 1, the playing time will be split in half. That No. 3 guy could be a special teams guy, third down, short yardage guy. At the most, we've played three backs in the past. But the majority of the time there's two - it's a main guy and a spell guy."
This past season, UM had six backs split carries, with senior Damien Berry (899 yards, 5 TDs on 190 att.), Miller (646 yards, 6 TDs, 108 att.) and James (398 yards, 3 TDs, 70 att.) getting the bulk of the work. With Berry leaving, it is expected that freshmen Eduardo Clements and Johnson will step up and compete for playing time. Richardson, who arrived in South Florida Monday night, said he's already called each of them and spoken to them about what he expects moving forward. He said he doesn't expect to have any problems because his philosophy is simple: "the best guys will play."
"I've never had an issue with that," Richardson said of players complaining over playing time. "We're always honest and up front with guys. Guys always knew where they stood. If they wanted more carries -- either study harder or work harder or beat the guy out in front of you. That's the way it has to be. We're not in the business to stroke egos. The best guys are going to play. We'd do ourselves an injustice if we don't put the best guys out on the field. I had a kid that was talented and a kid that was a crafty veteran the year we had two 1,000 yards rushers. The situation called for both. The biggest thing was we were committed to running the football. We ran it a lot, split the load in half and that was the result."
Richardson, who told me Monday he knew very little about UM's running backs when he first got the job, said he had some time to watch film of the guys he will be working with.
"There's no doubt the talent is there. We just have to refine it, get it channeled in the right direction -- that's my goal," Richardson said. "The biggest thing I bring to the table is my ability to motivate my players and hold them accountable for the job that they have to do. I bring a professional mentality, a professional state of mind to the position. My knowledge of blocking schemes and how to attack a defense, how to run the football when the defense doesn't want you to run the football. I think that's my biggest strength.
"And I think I project to my players. The biggest thing I tell my guys is it's a 50/50 deal. Take the knowledge I'm providing for and put it with your talents and ability and we get 100 percent. That's how I approach it."
A FEW MORE TIDBITS...
> With the Canes loaded at running back, one might assume UM would go without a running back in this class. But Richardson said that might not necessarily be the case. "To me you never pass up a good player," Richardson said. "If there's a good player you can get that's interested, why not take him? Even thought there are good backs in the program. He'll come in as a freshman, hit the weight room a little bit, learn the system. But why not?"
> As for the fullback position, where senior Pat Hill will be leaving, Richardson said he has no idea what the Canes will do right now. "To me they're in the program," Richardson said. "They're on scholarship. We got to use them and they have to earn their scholarship."
> UM could be moving closer to picking up a quarterback commitment for their 2011 class. Canesport.com reported this morning Hargrave (VA) Military Academy QB Marcus McDade is getting a visit today from defensive backs coach Paul Williams. McDade (6-3, 200) setup an official visit to UM this weekend and could get an offer if qualifies academically.
McDade threw for 2,400 yards with 35 touchdowns and two interceptions in his senior year of high school.
> Coach Al Golden will meet with the media Friday at 1 p.m. It's expected that he will announce the rest of UM's assistant coaches -- offensive coordinator, receivers coach, special teams coordinator -- at that point.