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Vikings want to expand Richard's game

Lining up in various spots could help PSU team go places


Photo Credit: COURTESY OF PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY - Shaquille Richard, Portland State running back, says one of his goals this season is to break more tackles. The Vikings coaches want to see him get more touches, and more opportunities in open spaces, so they may move him out of the backfield at times, as well.Shaquille Richard walked onto Stott Community Field for a recent Portland State football practice looking much burlier than he did a few weeks earlier.

“I’ve put on more weight in the last couple of weeks than I have since I’ve been here,” says Richard, who is listed at 5-8, 180 pounds.

What has he been doing to pack on the weight?

“I don’t know!” Richard says. “I’ve just been eating whatever they give us and getting my sleep.”

While the senior putting on a little weight is not the worst thing that could happen, PSU doesn’t want Richard to eat himself into a position on the offensive line. The Vikings have other plans for him. Plans that require quite more speed.

This season, PSU wants to turn the running back into a slash player who comes out of the backfield, playing either slot receiver or outside receiver, and someone who returns kickoffs.

“Every year, we come in and we say, ‘Okay, who needs to touch the football?’ “ offensive coordinator Bruce Barnum says. “ ‘Shaq’ is one of those guys. He runs great routes and can catch. He knows tailback. Now we’re just making sure he knows what he’s doing at

receiver.”

Richard is happy to take on the additional role.

“I’m just doing whatever the team needs me to do,” Richard says. “It adds more to your game. Especially if you’re looking at a career at the next level. Of course, that’s down the line. But being more versatile and being able to help the team in more positions is a good thing. I can help us out in a few different areas, and that’s what I plan to do.”

Last season, Richard was the lightning back to D.J. Adams, the thunder in the Vikings’ ground game. Richard had 56 carries for 344 yards (6.1 per carry) and two touchdowns. His goal coming out of the backfield this season will be to avoid being tripped up as he makes his way through the line.

“I don’t want to have any shoestring tackles,” Richard says. “I feel like I probably have the record at shoestring tackles, which is not a good thing. I want to be able to keep my balance running through the tackles and breaking tackles and getting to the next level.”

Even with Richard taking on more roles, Barnum still considers him a focus in the run game.

“He’ll be a feature back,” Barnum says. “We’re all about production. Whoever is running the best that day is going to get the most carries. That’s how I’ve been for many moons.”

Richard has played a bit of slot receiver during his time on the Park Blocks. Last season, he caught six passes for 73 yards.

“I played slot on and off since I’ve been here,” he says. “But this year it’s been a consistent thing. I played receiver before I turned into a running back, so that’s not a new thing. Even when I was a running back, I always worked on my hands, because you have swing routes or little check-downs we do out of the backfield.”

Barnum says he is very confident in Richard, no matter where he lines up for Portland State.

“I like him better at receiver,” Barnum says, laughing. “He’s a natural. In space, he’s fun to watch. The problem we have in the backfield is getting him into space. I’ve got to get him by seven people first. At receiver, I can get him one-on-one matched up, or versus zone coverage.”

Richard says he also is looking forward to the opportunity to return kickoffs. Last season, he ran back six kicks for 102 yards.

“I’ve always wanted to do kick return, but I never had a real opportunity to do it,” he says. “I just want to make big plays.”

The Vikings open Aug. 31 at Oregon State. Their formidable preseason also includes a trip to Washington State for a Sept. 13 game, after the winnable nonconference home opener versus NCAA Division II Western Oregon Sept. 6 at Hillsboro Stadium.

Those early games will give the Viks a good look at how to best use Richard and the rest of their highly productive offensive arsenal.

Barnum says that turning Richard from a full-time running back to a slash player should help the entire offense.

“It helps the receiver depth and the tailback depth,” Barnum says. “Right now, he’s one of the top tailbacks and if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll be in the top group for receivers, too.”