Pick the storyline for Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia running back Trent Richardson.
One option would be the talented youngster whose freshman and sophomore seasons started out with tremendous promise only to be derailed early by season-ending injuries. A second option would be the return of Emmitt Smith's high school coach to Emmitt Smith's high school alma mater to coach a young and talented running back.
But perhaps the most fitting storyline and the story that Richardson may prefer is simply the emergence of an explosive running back in the Florida panhandle.
In eight games as a junior, Richardson rushed for 1,390 yards and 14 touchdowns. Included in his nearly 1,400 yards was a 407-yard performance as well as a performance in which he picked up 242 yards…before halftime.
The yardage was long overdue for Richardson. The 5-foot-11 200-pound back was already hitting his stride as a freshman when he tore a ligament in his ankle in the fourth game of the season. The previous game he had rushed for more than 200 yards and scored three touchdowns.
More hard luck hit him during his sophomore campaign. In the first game of the season, after rushing for more than 200 yards he had another season-ending injury while returning a kick 94 yards for a touchdown.
Understandably, as a junior, Richardson was just happy to get out on the field.
"I was just trying to complete the season and trying to play hard and not worry about injuries," Richardson said.
It didn't take long for him to announce his presence. He rushed for 407 yards in an opening night win against Tate High School. That performance was complemented by a performance later in the season against Pensacola Catholic in which he rushed for 242 first-half yards.
"That was a big makeup game," Richardson said. "A lot of folks were talking about how I didn't do anything since I played Tate. I've got a lot of friends on Catholic so it was fun to go out there against a lot of friends. They were all talking trash to me before the game so that just boosted me up more."
After his early performance against Tate, teams began to stack the box to stop Richardson, but the junior still found ways to get his yardage and come away with a productive season.
"A lot of folks started to put a lot of people in the box," he said. "I just ran to the outside more and then we started putting in more draws. I feel good about the way I played. I just wish we played more games went into the playoffs."
As the offseason approaches, Richardson may play basketball but knows he wants to continue to compete in track to get him better on the football field.
"Right now I'm doing a little basketball but I don't know if I'm going to keep playing," he said. "I don't want to risk my ankle getting hurt. I'll run track in the spring. I ran as a freshman and sophomore. My best time in the 100 is a 10.57. I'm trying to hit 10.2."
Richardson's track speed shows on the football field as well. On four separate occasions, Richardson had runs of 80 yards or more.
As college coaches begin to approach Richardson, he has taken a very pragmatic approach to the recruiting process and has a clear early favorite.
"Alabama is my favorite right now," he explained. "They run the ball a lot and they've got one of my boys over there Christopher Lett. I talk to him sometimes and he tells me all about it. I haven't been to a game this fall but I've watched a lot of them. Coach Saban's a good coach and he knows what he's doing. You have to look at the recruits coming in and who you're going to be playing with. You have to look at the o-line recruits. I like that they've got good offensive linemen coming in."
Second on Richardson's early list is Alabama's in-state rival.
"I went down to Auburn for a visit for the Auburn game with New Mexico State and I saw them play Florida when I went down to the Florida game," he said. "They run the ball a lot."
Finally, Mississippi State is a school that will get a hard look from the 2009 standout.
"They've got a lot of players from Pensacola that I know," he said. "They run the ball a lot too and my coaches know some folks down there."
In a state loaded with talent, Richardson will be a name to watch for 2009.