The 2014 Georgetown University football team runs on its defense. Having not given up a touchdown in either of the past two games — both wins — the Hoya defense has shown its readiness to lead the team for the remainder of the year.
Most people who follow the team will tell you the stars of the defense are either the two team captains — senior linebacker Nick Alfieri and senior defensive end Alec May — or emerging junior cornerback Ettian Scott. But to those who watch closely it is clear that there is a fourth player who also makes the unit flow as a group: senior defensive tackle Jordan Richardson.
The unsung hero of the defense, Richardson has started at defensive tackle from his first game as a true freshman in 2011. In what is surely not a coincidence, that year linebacker Rob McCabe (MSB ’12) set Georgetown’s single-season tackle record with 134 tackles and linebacker Dustin Wharton (COL ’14) also broke the 100-tackle mark, accumulating 101 of his own.
“It was challenging but it meant a lot that the coaches had enough trust in me to put me on the field with such a great team that we had that year,” Richardson said of starting as a freshman.
In a sport that is so physically demanding, it is rare to see a true freshman come in and make such an impact from day one. But the Georgetown coaching staff saw what Richardson was capable of doing on the field at the Athens Academy in Watkinsville, Ga.
“Jordan was one of those guys who came out of high school a pretty physically developed kid,” Defensive Coordinator Luke Thompson said. “Some guys need to develop in college physically and Jordan came in pretty physically developed. He came in right around 285 pounds so that’s a good-sized freshman. What I saw on tape from him out of high school was just an explosive player, ran well for his size, strong, the kind of guy we wanted inside and then he’s definitely lived up to that since he’s been here.”
Richardson has never stuffed the stat sheet. His career high in tackles for a season is 52, although he did finish fifth in the Patriot League with 12 tackles for loss last season. This season, however, it appears he is on his way to breaking that tackles mark, as he has 22 so far through four games — good for fourth on the team. But Richardson knows his true value is in what he allows others to do.
“I think more than anything the linebackers really are a representation of what I’m able to do,” Richardson said. “Taking up a lot of double teams and then making plays. So it’s been awesome with McCabe [and] Alfieri.”
The other defensive players on this Georgetown squad recognize how valuable Richardson is to their success. Perhaps more than anyone else, May has benefitted from playing four years next to him. Not only does May already have 8.5 sacks this year — 21.5 for his career — but he has seen firsthand what Richardson brings to the Hoya defense.
“I think just from freshman year the scheme we run, playing him at either one of the inside defensive tackle positions it’s great when he can eat up a double team,” said May, the current FCS National Defensive Lineman of the Week. “On the run [Richardson] allows the other defensive lineman or the linebackers to flow through and make plays. As far as the passing game goes, him being a threat inside makes them kind of slide that way and it gives me more one-on-one rushes on the outside which is always great.”
This is not to say that Richardson has not put up impressive numbers of his own. He has blocked three kicks in his career, and recorded 4.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. In last Saturday’s 17-3 win against Brown, Richardson also recovered a fumble on the one-yard line. But Head Coach Rob Sgarlata, who was Georgetown’s defensive coordinator when Richardson first arrived, sees the bigger picture of what Richardson provides.
“Ever since Jordan’s been here as a freshman we’ve had All-Americans behind him,” Sgarlata said. “He does a lot of things that don’t show up in the stat sheet … the entire defense benefits from having him. He does a lot of things for us inside that are critical to our success on defense, especially versus the run. And in the last two games, the statistics are a direct result of what we’ve done with Jordan and as he goes we go on defense as far as stopping the run.”
Like Sgarlata, Richardson also sees the bigger picture of his role on the team, and as long as they keep winning he does not care who is making the tackles.
“My goal as a team is just to win a league championship, and individually, [to] just keeping helping the team and doing what it takes to win,” Richardson said.