— Adam Lichtenstein (@ABLichtenstein) January 29, 2019
No matter how you slice it, it’s a busy week to be Mark-Antony Richards.
The West Palm Beach (Fla.) Wellington native is one of only a few Consensus Top 100 prospects who opted not to sign early with a college, so with Signing Day only a week away, it’s crunch time on all sides.
The fourth ranked athlete in the nation is a jack-of-all trades on the field. During his senior campaign, the four-star prospect racked up a ton of yards on offense. On the other side of the ball, he cracked 2018’s All-USA Florida Second Team.
However, Richards knows what he wants his role to be in college, as he told Inside the Gators.
“I want to be an offensive athlete,” he proclaimed. “At Florida, I know there are plenty of guys in the receiving game and the running game. I just want to do it all.”
A do-it-all guy on the offense is something Gator fans are used to in wildcat Kadarius Toney. Richards doesn’t know Toney personally, but he says that is a comparison he’s starting to hear frequently.
“A lot of people compare me to him,” Richards said. “But I’ve seen what he can do and I think it’s a good comparison. I’m totally fine with it.”
When dealing with a highly-touted, yet uncommitted prospect like Richards, programs will find ways to one-up each other. According to Richards, while multiple coaches have stopped by Wellington High School to check in, only one coach came in a helicopter.
“It was a really awesome moment,” Richards said about Dan Mullen’s arrival Tuesday in a chopper. “The fact that the coaches came out to support was really great, but when I saw Coach Mullen pop out of the helicopter, it was so surreal. I will never forget that moment.”
Richards visited Gainesville a few weeks before the legendary helicopter ride and said that UF always keeps him wanting more.
“The visit went really well. I got a chance to talk to some of the players, like Chris Steele and Jaydon Hill. We just talked football and stuff and then I also got a chance to talk to the coaches.”
One coach in particular, though, is helping the Gators solidify themselves in the mix of Richards’ top schools.
Mullen was joined by Greg Knox and Brian Johnson later Tuesday evening for Florida’s final in-home visit with Richards
“Coach [Greg] Knox,” he said definitively when asked which coach is playing a major role in recruiting him. “I’ve been talking to him since my junior year and he’s always been there for me and super supportive. Then in my senior year, we talked more, he built a relationship with my dad and the whole family. He’s definitely one of the guys who will be around more.”
Something Richards likes about Florida is that neither coaches nor players are pressuring him to commit. After all, this decision is one of – if not the – biggest the senior will have to make.
One prevailing message that came out of all of the in person meetings – “They just believe in me.”
Lately, it seems like current Gators commits are using social media to try to lure top prospects to the Swamp. Richards says he hasn’t really had that experience with players he’s close to.
“I’m really close with [Chris] Steele. I’ve known him since The Opening. He talks to me a lot about Florida and how it’s been a great decision for him, but he’s not trying to push me to Florida or anything.”
With just a week to go until he signs, Richards said that he is zeroing in on five schools before he picks a hat off the table next week.
“My top five schools are Georgia, Penn State, Auburn, Florida, and Miami.”
Most top schools try not to let homegrown talent cross state lines. But, when a player has two in-state schools in the final stretch, it’s hard for one program to find an upper hand on the other. Unless, of course, one is less than an hour away from the player’s house.
“Miami came to visit and it was pretty good,” Richards said.
His brother (former wide receiver Ahmmon Richards) is on scholarship there despite a career-ending injury. Mark-Antony tells ITG that advice from Ahmmon will play a role in determining the right school.
“He probably knows more than I do about this and his opinion matters to me… probably even more than my parents to be honest. But he knows it’s my decision in the end, so he’s really just trying to help me more than anything.”
Rrest assured, Richards says he is still deciding, although certain schools are quietly fading in his mind.
He did not divulge too many details to ITG, saying “Let me tell you this. There are definitely certain schools that are sticking out more to me.”