Throughout fall camp, the Colorado football program and its fans have been waiting to hear a target date for the return of star receiver Paul Richardson.

Now they have it: Aug. 31, 2013.

Richardson, who is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee, announced Wednesday that he will sit out this season and focus on returning for the 2013 opener.

"After thinking it through and talking to my coaches and my family and the doctors, I decided I'm probably going to take the year this season to get healthy and work on getting back for next season," the junior said.

Richardson's decision ends all the speculation about his return. He tore his ACL on April 9, and at the time was believed to be done for the year, since it normally takes 6-12 months for recovery.

However, he appeared to be on the fast track. Throughout camp, he worked on his own in an effort to get back onto the field and help the Buffs this season. He had recently been ruled out of the first two games, but there was some hope that Richardson could play the entire nine-game Pac-12 schedule, beginning Sept. 22 at Washington State.

"Just basically working out and knowing I would have to miss two or three games to begin with, I just didn't want to start off like that," Richardson said. "The recovery is still going well. I'm still recovering fast, but to lower the chances of reinjuring it and to make sure I am ready to play when I do touch the field again, I just think it would be the best decision for me to make right now."

CU head coach Jon Embree said he was relieved by the decision.

"I wasn't fired up about him trying to rush back," Embree said. "I look at all these kids like they are my own kids, so I know if that was my son I would want him to get healthy healthy and not rush it back. As much as I'd love to have him, I want him to be healthy. This is about a career and not necessarily a season."

Richardson is the most experienced and most explosive wideout on the roster. As a true freshman in 2010, he caught 34 passes for 514 yards and six touchdowns. A year ago, he caught 39 passes for 555 yards and five touchdowns, but was limited to nine games because of a knee injury. His 2011 season includeda game against Cal in which he set CU's school record for single-game receiving yards (284) and tied the school record for most catches in a game (11).

Without Richardson, the Buffs will be eager to find out which receivers will step up and lead the team. Sophomore Tyler McCulloch (10 career catches) and redshirt freshman Nelson Spruce (zero college appearances) enter the season as the starters. True freshman Gerald Thomas has drawn rave reviews from coaches and teammates, while sophomore Keenan Canty (14 catches in 2011) and senior Dustin Ebner (three career catches, all in 2010) are also expected to get some balls thrown their way.

Richardson said that while he hoped he could add some spice to that group, "I know with the guys we have now, we won't miss a beat."

Richardson also said he worried about coming back during the season and disrupting the rhythm of the offense. He has never worked with starting quarterback Jordan Webb.

"I'd rather just continue to coach these guys up and help the staff as much as I can," he said.

Embree said there are advantages to Richardson sitting out a year, because Richardson can get bigger and stronger in the weight room and absorb a lot of aspects of the game in meetings.

"If he does this right and uses his time correctly, which he has done so far, it'll make him a better football player," Embree said.

Richardson will use his redshirt and still have two years of eligibility. Richardson would technically be eligible for the NFL Draft in April, but he said he hasn't thought about that and is simply focused on getting his degree, "which I will do early, and take it from there."

When asked about Richardson possibly going to the NFL, Embree laughed.

"Yeah, I could be an astronaut, too," he said. "We could talk about coulds all we want; he'll be back."

Follow Brian Howell on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.