One of the deepest positions on Virginia’s football roster suffered some attrition Thursday.
Coach Mike London announced junior running back Clifton Richardson has been granted a release from his scholarship and will leave the program.
Richardson had an injury-plagued sophomore campaign in 2012 but was in the mix for playing time in the backfield next season along with classmates Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd and incoming five-star recruit Taquan Mizzell. However, Richardson ended spring practice third on the depth chart and it appears the logjam persuaded him to transfer.
“Clifton Richardson has been granted permission to seek a release from his scholarship to pursue opportunities elsewhere,” London said in a school-issued statement. “Clifton will be leaving the University in good academic standing. I wish the best for Clifton as he pursues his academic and athletic goals.”
Considered one of the top 20 running back recruits in the country by Rivals in 2010, Richardson chose the Cavaliers over schools such as Virginia Tech, Miami, Maryland and West Virginia.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Newport News, Va., native appeared in every game as a true freshman, gaining 366 yards and scoring two touchdowns in a rotation with Parks and then-junior Perry Jones. He also averaged more than five yards per carry.
But Richardson was hampered by a hamstring injury throughout the 2012 season, only appearing in seven games and rushing for 59 yards on 24 carries. With Parks injured during parts of spring practice in March, Richardson saw extensive action and London raved about his progress, telling reporters that the powerful tailback had also regained his burst since returning to full health.
Parks, who rushed for a team-high 734 yards last season, will be atop Virginia’s running back depth chart when the Cavaliers begin training camp in August. Shepherd is listed as his backup, but Mizzell will arrive on campus this summer.
Mizzell, a Virginia Beach native, is the highest-rated recruit to sign with Virginia since London took over the program in 2009.