The news came down last night, and for the Missouri Tigers it was anything but good. Junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson will miss this weekend’s game against Syracuse as punishment for a violation of team rules. KOMU, which was one of the first sources to break the story Thursday night, followed up their initial report with details that the suspension stems from Richardson skipping a class and then for failing to complete work assigned to him as “punishment” for skipping those classes.
The loss of Richardson for MU’s final home game is obviously a major blow. He is one of the most talented players on either side of the ball and his absence creates a gaping hole on the defensive line for a team that is struggling to secure bowl eligibility.
A 6’4″ 295 lb junior defensive tackle, Richardson has had a strong season while anchoring Missouri’s defensive line. He leads the team in tackles (70) and is second in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4). Beyond the numbers, which never tell the story of an interior lineman’s impact anyway, Richardson has been a force constantly winning his battles at the line of scrimmage and applying pressure from the inside. He’s been the most consistently disruptive player on the field for the Tigers and is almost a lock to be selected in the first round of April’s 2013 NFL Draft. That type of talent and production simply can’t be replaced at this point in the season.
Missouri, at 5-5, needs to emerge victorious in one of their next two games to capture that critical 6th win. With a road game against #8 Texas A&M on tap for next week the team can’t afford to take any chances at home against the Orange.
Syracuse is also fighting for bowl eligibility at 5-5, but is 4-2 in the Big East and is coming off their 45-26 dismantling of then undefeated #9 Louisville. They may play in an inferior conference but they are 20th in the nation in passing (301.9 yards per game) and 56th in rushing (167.9 YPG) with a talented senior QB in Ryan Nassib (3,019 yds, 21 TD, 8 INT) under center. The Orange offense figured to put the Tigers defense to the test even with Richardson in the fold and on the field.
This suspension obviously comes at a terrible time and there is no question it reduces the Tigers’ chances of winning on Saturday. The silver lining here, is that Richardson didn’t do something unethical, illegal or overly embarrassing to get suspended. It doesn’t change the fact that he won’t play on Saturday, in what was likely his final home game at Faurot Field, but the circumstances and context are important.