Posted: 9:55 am Tuesday, October 28th, 2008
By Jason Lieser
Under the glare of a national television audience, Blue Devils senior Nu’Keese Richardson heaved a 77-yard touchdown pass in Pahokee’s loss to Byrnes High on Oct. 3. The play landed him the No. 4 spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 that night.
He has not played quarterback since that game.
In the following three-week stretch, which featured two lightweight opponents and the bye, Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson has been test-driving back-up Emanuel “Tebow” Perez, a sophomore.
Perez started in blowout wins over Melbourne Central Catholic and John Carroll, and will do so again this week against Cardinal Newman. Richardson, who has been playing receiver and running back during that span, will return to quarterback against Vero Beach next Thursday.
“We’re just trying to give Emanuel a chance to grow,” Thompson said. “He looks like he’ll be next year’s quarterback, and he’s getting better.”
In his two starts, Perez completed 22 of 34 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He still needs work on the deep game, a staple for Pahokee, but Thompson believes his arm strength will increase in the off-season.
Richardson, meanwhile, is having plenty of fun playing his natural positions. He is expected to fill a similar role, eventually, at Florida.
He had a rushing touchdown and a touchdown catch against Melbourne Central Catholic, and a 44-yard touchdown sprint against John Carroll.
“He’s enjoying this,” Thompson said of Richardson.
He wasn’t too bad at quarterback, either. Richardson completed nearly 53 percent of his passes, threw for 12 touchdowns and 956 yards.
While it seems smart to get Perez some work in noncompetitive games, he also has taken the majority of reps at quarterback in practice. When Richardson returns under center against a very impressive Vero Beach team next Thursday, he will do so following a month-long hiatus from the position.
“That’ll be a concern, but I’m not worried,” Thompson said. “He’s done it before and he’ll do it again.”
Richardson also could be called upon to relieved Perez if he gets in serious trouble. Thompson said he did not foresee making such a substitution, but acknowledged it as a possibility.
“We’ll be patient with Emanuel,” he said. “We’re not going to pull him after the first interception or anything like that … but we certainly wouldn’t jeopardize a game.”
Richardson assumed the starting quarterback job in the off-season, essentially by default. He was a big contributor at receiver last season, but turned out to be Pahokee’s most capable passer after Anthony Sheppard graduated.
During spring and summer, Thompson said he planned to gradually transition Richardson out of the quarterback position if another player developed quickly enough. That did not happen, but Richardson proved he could be a game-changer with both his arm and his legs.