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Richardson's Return Offers Lifeboat To Drowning CU Offense

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Colorado receiver Paul Richardson hauled in a pair of touchdown passes and piled up 282 yards against Cal in 2011. CU coaches and fans are hoping the junior will do more of the same this season after being sidelined with a knee injury in 2012. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.
Colorado receiver Paul Richardson hauled in a pair of touchdown passes and piled up 282 yards against Cal in 2011. CU coaches and fans are hoping the junior will do more of the same this season after being sidelined with a knee injury in 2012. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

Paul Richardson is back — a Paul Bunyan-size return for a team that opponents treated more like Saint Paul of Tarsus last season.

En route to a program-worst 1-11 record in 2012, teams pushed around and beat down the Colorado Buffaloes essentially every week, setting or nearly setting all kinds of national records in all the wrong ways.

For starters, the Buffs, out of 124 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, were 119th in total offense (averaging 302 yards a game) and 120th in scoring offense (averaging 17.8 points a game). For Buffs fans, it was painful to watch the woeful offensive production.

Youth, inexperience and plenty of team shortcomings contributed to these rotten numbers and others, but one of the Buffs' most glaring voids was their outright lack of speed and talent at the receiver position. And in the lightning-fast Pac-12 Conference, where most games look more like track meets between wild cheetahs and gazelles, any team that has a shortage of speed anywhere on the field is going to get exposed — and exposed the Buffs were.

Knowing that CU's receivers were of no serious threat and could be handled 1-on-1 enabled the Buffs' opponents to stack the box, put more pressure on their quarterbacks (CU ranked 122nd in sacks allowed at 50 for the season) and shut down their running game (CU had the country's 113th-best rushing attack, averaging 110 yards a game). 

Nobody to throw to, nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. That explains the Buffs' average margin of defeat of 31 points.

The ugly domino effect when any team's standout player becomes a spectator is amazing.

But hope, even if it's only a sliver, springs eternal for CU fans. Paul Richardson is back.

By far the Buffs' most explosive player, Richardson, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound product of Los Angeles, missed the entire 2012 season after tearing his ACL in the final week of spring drills.

As a true freshman in 2010, Richardson was the team's runner-up in both receiving yards (514) and touchdowns (six). The following year, despite missing four mid-season games with a knee injury suffered during practice, the former UCLA commit finished second on the team in touchdown receptions (five) and third in receiving yards (555).

Richardson and his gifts, however, were encased in a knee brace and relegated to the sideline last fall — bad for CU, great for CU's opponents.

This season, defensive coordinators will once again have to craft their game plans around the 21-year-old junior. 

Richardson's quickness, breakaway speed and playmaking abilities should open up CU's running game, give fellow receivers Jeffrey Hall and D.D. Goodson plenty of opportunities to make valuable contributions, and help make the Buffs more competitive.

But nobody is saying CU will win 10 games. That would be as absurd as seeing Babe the Blue Ox lead the Buffs onto Folsom Field in place of Ralphie.