Clayton Richard’s teammates have searched. They’ve looked high and low.
But they still can’t seem to find a time when their Michigan-bound, star quarterback doesn’t have a wide-eyed grin on his face.
It’s gotten to the point that some of Richard’s friends call him “Sunshine,” referring to the wholesome, blonde-haired, left-handed quarterback in the movie “Remember the Titans”.
“It stuck for a little while, until we reminded him that ‘Sunshine’ kissed another guy in the movie – and Clayton wasn’t a big fan,” Lafayette, IN. McCutcheon High School football coach Kevin O’Shea joked.
But Richard’s got plenty of reasons to smile. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound pro-style quarterback often draws labels as a “left-handed Drew Henson” for his size, strength and multi-sport exploits. Besides throwing for more than 7,800 yards, 65 touchdowns and 463 completions in just his first two years at McCutcheon, Richard is also a star on the baseball diamond. Just like Henson did, Richard will most likely be selected in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft, and could spend his summers playing baseball.
“I don’t want people thinking he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread,” O’Shea said. “But he’s going to compete hard.”
And Richard will have to on the football field, as he will have a logjam of talented Michigan quarterbacks waiting for him. Richard has no “delusions of grandeur” that he’s going to unseat fifth-year senior John Navarre as starter next season. But he said he’s expecting to have a chance to compete with redshirt freshman Matt Gutierrez, who never lost a game as starter in high school.
The competition “doesn’t bother me at all,” said Richard, who mentioned he passed up opportunities to play right away in order to come to Michigan. “I’m looking forward to it.”
O’Shea said Richard fits the “Michigan profile” perfectly – extremely strong arm and outstanding aptitude (4.0 G.P.A., 1300 SAT). Richard throws an “exceptionally good deep ball,” as O’Shea remembers a time where the Lafayette, Ind. native threw the ball 82 yards in the air. “If our receiver hadn’t been interfered with, it would have been a touchdown.”
More important than the long throw, O’Shea says Richard can make every throw. O’Shea said he worked real hard with Richard in improving his intermediate short routes – the bread and butter of the “new” Michigan offense.
“There’s not a throw he can’t make,” O’Shea said. “He’ll make them with solid velocity, yet he also has nice touch.
“He has great footwork. But if people are expecting a Michael Vick, he’s not it.”
Just like most Michigan quarterbacks of the past, Richard is a pocket passer who scrambles more out of necessity rather than deliberately. He’ll most likely have to battle with Gutierrez, who is one year ahead in terms of development and knowledge of the system, but maybe a little behind Richard strength-wise.
Gutierrez “is a mental warrior,” said Michigan quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler. “He’s really terrific with the game, but we’ve got to improve him physically. He’s going to be a good quarterback, it’s just going to take some time though.”
Time isn’t on Gutierrez’s side with a top prospect such as Richard coming in, but the redshirt freshman said he isn’t going to back down.
“The thing is, the best player is going to play all the time no matter what,” Gutierrez said. “It’s open season when you go into fall camp, and that’s what you have to know when you come here. You have to be ready to prove yourself.”
Richard will be ready, most likely with a smile on his face.