MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio — JaVonte Richardson is the second highest-ranked signee in Kentucky’s 2017 class, but with his recruiting arose positional problems.
But not between Richardson and Wildcats coaches.
A 4-star wide receiver from Maple Heights, a Cleveland suburb, Richardson is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. Some schools wanted him to play tight end; others recruited him as a safety. Richardson was ranked the No. 32 receiver in the 2017 class by 247Sports and the 10th overall player in Ohio.
SEC Country met with Richardson as part of the Next Generation series in which we’ll visit several signees in Kentucky’s 2017 class. Here’s part of our conversation with Richardson focusing on his recruitment.
Q: What’s going through your mind right now as far as getting started at Kentucky?
A: I’m anxious to get down there. I want to put in a lot of work. I want to prove a lot of people from Ohio. Basically, going to bring everything to the table.
Q: A lot of schools were recruiting you to play defense, but Kentucky wanted you to play receiver. How important was that?
A: It was a big sticking point for me because I know a lot of people wanted me to play the other side of the ball, and I wanted to play offense. I feel I’m better on offense. I feel I can bring a lot to the table on offense. Once they offered me as a wide receiver I took full advantage of it.
Q: Your high school coach said it was kind of an accident that schools were recruiting you to play defense. They saw you on that side of the ball and thought you were a defensive player. What was that like?
A: Our team was so little we didn’t have enough people to play just on one side. I ended up playing safety. I guess I was so good at it a lot of people wanted me to play safety.
Q: Now that you’ve been through it, what advice would you give juniors who are going through the recruiting process?
A: This process is long. I hated this process. For juniors, I’d give them the advice to … I don’t know. When you’re not committed it’s so stressful. It’s kind of overwhelming at a young age like this.
Q: If you had to pick, which school came in second for you?
A: Honestly, I think it would’ve been Michigan State. Coach Mark Dantonio, he was a good dude, but they wanted me to play defense.
Q: Did you have any regrets in the process?
A: If I had to do it again, I would’ve taken my ninth and 10th grade years more serious in high school. That made me have to go harder as a senior and junior.
Q: You grew up an Ohio State fan, what sort of relationship did you have with them?
A: I’ve been there since [Maple Grove High coach Devlin Culliver] took me in the eighth grade. I grew up being an Ohio State kid, wanting to play for the Buckeyes. Everybody did. But when I started getting recruited and I started seeing these different places and different schools, I got a different look. So, I started seeing how colleges play their game, how I like to play my game. And then with those [Ohio State] coaches, there wasn’t nothing special that they did that made me feel special. I never had much interest in them when I got in the 10th grade.
Q: Your coach said you took some flack from Ohio State fans after your decision. What was that like?
A: It’s tough to deal with. Growing up, 17, 18 years old. There’s really nothing you can do about it. It just gives me another reason to go hard.
Q: When you committed to Kentucky, you didn’t waver. What made you so sure?
A: I was solid. [Recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow and coach Mark Stoops], they being so real to me. They showed me early in the process. They was one of my first offers. I knew they really wanted me at their school and the way they treated me and showed me how real they can be. I knew I wanted to be with them. I knew they had my back.