Colorado Buffaloes receiver Paul Richardson and USC Trojans tailback Tre Madden missed the entire 2012 season with knee injuries, but they’re both back and, after the first two weeks of 2013, they’re better than ever.
Richardson, a junior, suffered a torn ACL during spring practice in 2012. Rather than rush through rehab to get back for the Buffs’ miserable season, he chose to redshirt and start fresh this year. It seems like a smart decision. Through two games, Richardson leads the nation in receiving, with 417 yards and four touchdowns on 21 receptions.
Madden, a third-year sophomore, also tore ligaments in his knee before the 2012 season. He had been switched from linebacker to tailback in the offseason, and the Trojans had high hopes he’d become a quality contributor on offense.
It was tough to predict how Madden would do in 2013, coming back from a major injury and starting at a brand new position, but he quickly proved to be one of the few bright spots on the USC offense. He broke 100 yards in his first start at tailback, rushing for 109 against Hawaii.
Last weekend, in the Trojans’ ugly loss to Washington State, Madden was the offense. He had 32 carries and accounted for 151 of USC’s 193 yards of offense, becoming the first USC tailback to start a season with more than 100 yards in consecutive games since Marcus Allen in 1981.
Richardson’s speed and explosiveness is also carrying him toward the team record books. He’s been even more explosive, starting the season with back-to-back 200 yard games. There have only been five 200-yard receiving games in Colorado football history, and after starting the season with back-to-back 200 yard games, Richardson owns three of them. He also had one 200-yard performance pre-injury, a 284-yard day against Cal in 2011 that set a school record for single-game receiving yards.
Richardson says he feels even stronger and faster after rehab than he did before his knee injury, but he won’t have an opportunity to rack up any additional yards this weekend. The Buffaloes were scheduled to host Fresno State on Saturday, but due to the massive rain and flooding in Colorado, that game has been postponed indefinitely.
There’s a chance he could still remain the nation’s leading receiver, even without stepping on the field. Buffalo‘s Alex Neutz, Vanderbilt‘s Jordan Matthews and Oregon State‘s Brandin Cooks are the closest to surpassing Richardson’s 417 yards, but they’d each need more than 120 yards this weekend to do it.
Regardless of whether they maintain their spots at the top of the national and Pac-12 leader boards, both Richardson and Madden have already become inspiring comeback stories and, more importantly, key assets to their teams.