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True freshman quarterback Daniel Richardson shows leadership, execution in college debut


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Central Michigan quarterback Daniel Richardson motions a receiver against Northern Illinois Nov. 2 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

If you weren't at Kelly/Shorts Stadium or following the game closely, you would've never known true freshman quarterback Daniel Richardson took the field.

He didn't throw a pass. He didn't run the ball. He didn't take a knee late in the game. He didn't do anything that would have caused a nod of the head to showcase approval from the average fan.

Richardson's name wasn't on the stat sheet or drive summary, and he didn't directly contribute to any team statistics.

But the moment Richardson had been waiting for finally occurred.

The 5-foot-10, 200-pound quarterback made his collegiate debut with just over five minutes remaining in Central Michigan's 48-10 victory against Northern Illinois on Nov. 2 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

The Chippewas had a 38-point lead when Richardson entered the game. First-year coach Jim McElwain didn't signal for any passing plays.

"I'm not a guy that's going to run the score up," McElwain said. "I don't think that's what you do."

Richardson's first play was a clean handoff to sophomore running back Kobe Lewis, who took the ball 12 yards for a first down. The Chippewas ended up turning the ball over on downs with 1:17 remaining after junior running back Kumehnnu Gwilly entered for Lewis.

Again, no passing or rushing attempts from Richardson.

McElwain didn't mind.

Where the typical fan looks at statistics alone, McElwain noticed the way the true freshman commanded the offense, worked with his teammates and executed on the plan for that final drive.

"We pretty much felt like we had the game in hand," McElwain said. "For him to get in and execute the offense, I thought it was really good."

Those are aspects Richardson must perfect if he wants to successfully take over for senior graduate transfer Quinten Dormady next season. In a way, learning to do those things are the fundamentals of quarterbacking at the Division I level, so that's where McElwain has Richardson at right now.

It's all about the basics.

"I was excited he got in there," McElwain said. "He's a guy that has a lot of trust and is a great leader, you can tell that."

Before the 2018 season, the NCAA announced a new redshirt rule that allows players to participate in a maximum of four games per year without losing a season of eligibility.

Five days before the game against the Huskies, McElwain was unclear if he would use Richardson – despite that the fact that no matter what happened he will be completely eligible for a redshirt.

McElwain made the choice to give him reps in the offense after Dormady finished 18 of 24 through the air for 288 yards and three touchdowns.

Dormady played in six games as a true freshman at Tennessee in 2015 and completed 13 of 22 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown. His first touchdown pass was a 24-yard completion to Preston Williams on Sept. 19 against Western Carolina.

While Richardson waits for his opportunity to sling his first touchdown, he has Dormady in his corner. He also has senior quarterback Tommy Lazzaro and suspended junior quarterback David Moore preparing him for the future.

"For him – as a freshman – to get in the game, that's awesome for him," Dormady said. "He's a different dude, and he's a lot of fun to be around. He's a guy that brings energy."

As a double graduate transfer from Tennessee and Houston, Dormady said he often jokes around with Richardson, despite the latter being five years younger.

Richardson's teammates tried to get him to warm up 10 minutes before going into the game, basically at the start of the fourth quarter. 

"He didn't want to do it," Dormady said, laughing. "He had about two minutes to warm up. We got him right."

Dormady said some of the starters were "messing with him a little bit" but only to make sure Richardson was prepared.

Even McElwain noticed the animation from his bench was a little different when Richardson was in for his college debut.

"The energy on the sideline when he got in was kind of cool," McElwain said.

Dormady has been on his college football journey for six years; Richardson is in his first year.

The torch will likely be passed from the 23-year-old to the 18-year-old following the conclusion of the 2019 season.

Right now, for Richardson, it's about learning the ropes and getting set to make a name for himself as a Chippewa.

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