BOULDER – Mike MacIntyre’s previously scheduled review of his first season as Colorado’s football coach took an unscheduled turn on Monday – a preview of the Buffaloes in 2014 minus receiver Paul Richardson.
At a mid-afternoon news conference at Folsom Field’s aging Flatirons Club, the record-setting junior confirmed what had been circulating earlier in the Twittersphere: He will forego his final season of eligibility and enter next spring’s NFL Draft.
“I’m excited for Paul,” MacIntyre said. “I’d love for him to stay and play (but) I’ve been through this a lot. It’s what a young man and family feels is best. He’s put in four years here, it’s not like he’s leaving after his third year . . . we wish him the best and we’re very thankful for what he’s done here at Colorado.”
Richardson, named CU’s 2013 most valuable player at Sunday night’s Senior Banquet and All-Pac-12 Conference first team on Monday, said he made his decision following Saturday’s season-ending loss at Utah. He said he had “a great experience” at CU and thanked MacIntyre for “bringing in a great staff” – particularly position coach Troy Walters.
Richardson also thanked MacIntyre in advance for his counsel: “He will help me in the process. There’s nothing I’m going to do that he won’t be a part of . . . I let him know how much I respected him as a coach and as a man.”
The two spoke earlier Monday and MacIntyre said those talks “went really well. We talked about a lot of different things.” With five years in the NFL, MacIntyre said he “understands what that world is about” and also said “a coach really has no say (in a player turning pro); it’s the kid and the family and what they feel is best for them.”
Richardson said he had spoken with his family about his decision and they helped him reach his conclusion. His deciding factor: “My position and the position of my family . . . it’s time to take the next step.”
He will leave CU with 29 school records, but MacIntyre said Richardson “could leave with about 60 if he stayed another year. I’m excited for Paul, but sad for us at the same time. We’ll keep going forward . . . he leaves a great legacy for us and our receiving corps. He came to work every day.”
Listed this season at 6-1, 170 pounds, Richardson conceded adding weight and strength will be two primary goals in the coming months. He lacks nine credits – three classes – to graduate next May with a degree in communications and said he would work with MacIntyre on a plan to finish his academic work.
MacIntyre said Richardson “definitely needs more size for durability” and added if Richardson “puts the right type of muscle on, he might gain speed.” But MacIntyre also noted that in the NFL, “P-Rich” will encounter bigger defenders hitting him on jump balls and will need added strength to make those catches. Richardson “didn’t make those plays in the spring but started to in the fall.”
He also wants to determine a workout regimen that will prepare him for the NFL. Richardson said he “never listens to projections” about the round in which he might be drafted. He missed last season while rehabilitating a knee injury but said making it through the 2013 season without a major injury showed his durability. “I want to look physically different,” he said, noting when he achieves that it will show prospective NFL employers “I’ve put in the work.”
Among his 29 school records were seven plays of 50 yards or longer this season. MacIntyre acknowledged Richardson’s “game-breaker” ability but said the 2014 roster will include several players with that kind of potential. He mentioned freshmen Devin Ross, Bryce Bobo and Elijah Dunston, as well as sophomore Nelson Spruce. But the freshmen, added MacIntyre, “have to do it on the field.” He also said he and his staff are pursuing prospects with similar abilities.
Other observations by MacIntyre looking back and ahead:
· The 16 seniors on MacIntyre’s first CU team “bought in, trusted us and set a standard for the younger guys,” he said. When CU qualifies for a bowl game – it hasn’t happened since 2007 – MacIntyre said this year’s seniors will be invited, all expenses paid, to the bowl site.
· Points of pride in his first CU season: The Buffs’ August-through-November effort and their refusal to roll over. MacIntyre said he is “proud to be here.”
· The Buffs finished 4-8 (1-8 Pac-12), and MacIntyre recalled an observation from former boss Bill Parcells: “You are your record.” But the Buffs, said MacIntyre, “truly improved.” Progress, he said, occurred on-field and off-field, in meetings, the locker room and in the way the team interacted. “I’ve seen things change drastically. We’ve gone from the valley to the foothills, but we’ve got to keep climbing.”
· His first team came out of August camp prepared and enjoyed the fast start the coaching staff anticipated. Two examples he cited of “listening, caring and getting good coaching:” The Buffs had the fewest fumbles in school history (14, 9 lost) and the fewest penalties in the last three decades (52 for 461 yards).
· CU is working with 19-20 scholarships for the Class of 2014. MacIntyre said losing and gaining commitments before the February national letter-of-intent date (Feb. 5) is part of fluid process played out annually.
· When MacIntyre watches highlight tapes of prospects, “I don’t have a clue what ‘stars’ they are . . . the star stuff kind of works its way out. We try to find players anywhere we can find them.”
· Instate recruiting, said MacIntyre, is “now not going as well as we would like, but it’s way from over.” He’s hoping there are some last-day (or minute) changes of heart from some Colorado prospects who realize they “don’t want to go that far away from home.” He also agreed that instate recruiting success has a direct correlation to success on the field.
· MacIntyre’s recruiting pitch includes proposed facilities upgrades that Athletic Director Rick George wants to see completed by 2015. MacIntyre is hoping to be able to use blueprints of the upgrades as he sells prospects on CU. He said he believes he, George and the university administration “are all on the same page.”
· Recruiting needs include “a little bit of everything,” he said. “We need to keep improving in both lines.” In the D-line, he mentioned tackles Josh Tupou and Justin Solis made late-seasons progress. In the O-line he said the return of Jeromy Irwin (leg injury) with 20 additional pounds will help that unit, as will the influx of several redshirt freshmen.
· Also, more across-the-board speed is needed, MacIntyre said, pointing to the lack thereof at times this season in open-field tackling.
· MacIntyre doesn’t anticipate any attrition from the current roster, but added, “There’s always a guy or two who wants to transfer down” to a lower division school for more playing time. “We’ll find out more on Jan. 12 when we come back from the holidays.”
· MacIntyre will be closely monitoring players after they return from Christmas break. He’ll conduct a post-holiday weight watch – or how those who need to gain weight and those who need to lose it stay the course. “That’s a telltale sign to me of guys who care,” he said.
· An off-season goal with Director of Sports Performance Dave Forman will be to strengthen the Buffs’ lower bodies. Said MacIntyre: “We need to be more powerful down there . . . we’re not as strong as the upper echelon (Pac-12) teams.”
· MacIntyre said there will be no staff changes.