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New CB coach John Richardson relishing return to college field after flag football detour

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During spring practice, when Arizona runs 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills, its various coaches are spread out on the field behind their respective sides of the ball. The better to observe, evaluate and, if needed, coach up a player following a miscue.

In John Richardson’s eyes, that last thing applies to all of his players. That’s why, after walk-on Jeffrey Robinson II was called for holding on a pass play, he pointed to each and every flag thrown.

“I really like to coach every single guy, from top to the bottom,” said Richardson, Arizona’s new cornerbacks coach. “If you’re in the room you should be coached. I like to hold everybody accountable, but I love them. If you can hold them accountable and they can hold you accountable then you got a relationship.”

Richardson joined Arizona in early February, replacing Dewayne Walker. He comes to Tucson after stints at North Dakota State, Wyoming and, most recently Washington State, where he was with the Cougars from 2020-21 before being part of the staff members let go following Nick Rolovich’s termination in October 2021.

That hiatus enabled Richardson to be a “husband and a father,” getting the kind of quality time with his wife and two children that is hard to accomplish while coaching. Yet he still found himself on a football field, just one with far less at stake.

“I actually became a flag football coach,” he said. “It was ironic that all these places that I coached that I never really got to watch a football game with my son. We became a much tighter knit family during that time.”

Richardson said he brought his same passion to that gig as he does with the Wildcats, with one exception: not expecting his team of 10-year-olds already knew complicated football schemes.

“I treated that as my mission field,” Richardson said. “If God is going to bless me to be able to impact young men then, you know what, I’m gonna give my all to it. We only played in one location, but we practiced at another, so it was like traveling for us, but it was fun.”

Arizona defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen reached out to Richardson shortly after Walker announced his departure in early January. There was a little back and forth before things sped up and Richardson was officially hired on Feb. 8.

Five weeks later he was coaching a cornerbacks room that has to replace a 3-year starter in Christian Roland-Wallace (now at USC) but returns three players who started at least one game at CB for Arizona last season.

“It’s non-stop action,” he said. “I mean, it’s a party every day. I’m trying to learn just as fast because it’s hard for me to teach if I don’t know it. I’ve got to be humble enough that, if I don’t understand something, to ask so I can be able to install it properly. So it’s been a process for me, but I’m growing and I’m learning. I got great guys in the room.”

Richardson played college football at North Dakota State after starting out at Mt. San Antonio College in California. In his coaching career he’s developed several players who have made the NFL, most recently Super Bowl participants Jaylen Watson (Kansas City Chiefs) and Marcus Epps (Philadelphia Eagles).