HOUSTON, Texas - Freshman players are expected to grow early in their careers. If they're talented enough, some will even become full-time starters by the season's end.
Though his season had bumps and bruises, Texas A&M safety Demani Richardson should be a name to watch for the SEC in the coming years. The Waxahachie native was expected to be a rotational player throughout his freshman season but grew into one of the team's top defensive players.
Richardson showed the Aggie nation what to expect in the future with a dominant performance in the 24-21 Texas Bowl victory over No.25 Oklahoma State. Although young, the freshman played at a senior level nearly every snap against the Cowboys' offense.
“Again, another true freshman in and play safety with all the things that go on and the variations that go on. That's a very complicated position to play with the physicality, can tackle and run and cover," A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He made some great plays and has a chance to be a tremendous player if he keeps improving.”
Richardson finished with a team-high eight tackles in coverage for Mike Elko's defense. Consistently making plays in the open field, the freshman was a vital factor in keeping the Cowboys offense stalled in the second half.
One area the team hoped Richardson would improve in for the future was in coverage. He showed his growth during the fourth quarter by breaking up a pass intended for Cowboys' Braydon Johnson. The play could have gone for a 30-plus yard gain but instead led to a drive ending in a turnover on downs.
Richardson continued to be a vocal presence as a rising star in A&M's secondary. He would finish his freshman campaign with 71 total tackles, 38 solo stops, two pass deflections, an interception and a forced fumble. As a young starter, the team will rely on his skills for the future to build around.
With DeMarvin Leal off the edge and Richardson patrolling the middle of the field, the Aggies could be set with two game-changing players for the successful future of the program.
"We have a large group of guys with the ability to come back next year, the juniors and also some of those young guys being able to play this year like Kenyon [Green], Ainias [Smith], Isaiah [Spiller], some of those guys being able to play as freshman," Quarterback Kellen Mond said. "I look for them to make a huge jump going into their sophomore year."