SEC: Nu\'Keese Richardson
- Arkansas unveils its new Nike football uniforms. The Hogs are switching to Nike apparel in July.
- With Dexter McCluster gone, Rodney Scott will have a big opportunity in Ole Miss' backfield next season.
- Joseph Person of The State newspaper has an update on South Carolina's 2010 signees and when everybody is supposed to arrive this summer.
- Former Tennessee receiver Nu'Keese Richardson finds himself in the news again after a video from a Florida Wal-Mart surfaces.
- Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News writes that SEC commissioner Mike Slive earned every penny of his $1 million bonus.
- Georgia football players Sanders Commings and Israel Troupe may give baseball a shot this summer in a wood-bat amateur league, reports Mark Weiszer of The Athens Banner-Herald.
- Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that fretting over Logan Gray is much ado about not much.
- Former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez refutes the Boston Globe story that he failed multiple drug tests when he was in college.
- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier takes the rivalry with Clemson's Dabo Swinney to the golf course.
- For the first time, Auburn's Tiger Prowl crosses state lines over into Columbus, Ga.
- Alabama's schedule issues remain unsolved, although SEC commissioner Mike Slive said the league hasn't given up on trying to "do what we can" for the 2010 season.
- The new NCAA president is Mark Emmert, an old friend of Nick Saban's, writes Gentry Estes of The Mobile Press-Register.
- Former Tennessee player and heralded recruit Nu'Keese Richardson tries to rebuild his college football career at Hampton.
- Auburn made solid strides under Gene Chizik in spite of Alabama's rise to the top of the college football world, writes Jay G. Tate of The Montgomery Advertiser.
- Five new players, including quarterback Cameron Newton, are expected to enroll at Auburn on Monday.
- Kentucky makes history, as all three FBS schools in the state are guided by black head coaches -- Joker Phillips at Kentucky, Charlie Strong at Louisville and Willie Taggart at Western Kentucky.
- South Carolina doesn't expect any early departures to the NFL, writes Travis Haney of The Charleston Post and Courier.
- Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains why he thinks linebacker Rennie Curran should have stayed for his senior season.
- Former Tennessee receiver Nu'Keese Richardson pleads guilty to attempted robbery.
- Alabama wasn't behind the idea of showing off the national championship trophy at Wal-Mart, writes Gentry Estes of The Mobile Press-Register
Don't be surprised if it's this Saturday against Kentucky.
Jackson, one of the Vols' best defenders, has already missed two games since his arrest on Nov. 12. He also missed the game prior to his arrest (Memphis) for a separate suspension.
The decision on Jackson's playing status this weekend will ultimately be left up to Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton, who obviously consults with the university president on these issues.
But there's a big push from the coaching staff to get Jackson back on the field immediately. In fact, there was some hope that the charges were going to be dropped the day before the Ole Miss game on Nov. 14, and the plan then was to play him.
At the end of the day, the district attorney in this case didn't think there was enough evidence to tie Jackson to the attempted robbery. His attorney said Jackson never had any idea an attempted robbery was going to take place and just happened to be in the car when it occurred.
Jackson's two former teammates, Mike Edwards and Nu'Keese Richardson, are still facing charges. They were dismissed from the team last week by Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin is still waiting on more information before making a decision on safety Janzen Jackson, presumably to see if charges are dropped against the Vols' freshman starter. In the meantime, Jackson won't be a part of any team activities.
While Jackson's fate remains to be seen, it's clear that Kiffin hasn't completely given up on retaining him. In fact, there were talks among Tennessee officials last Thursday and extending into Friday morning that it may still be possible for Jackson to play in the Ole Miss game.
But none of the players ended up making the trip.
They were arrested last Thursday and charged with attempted armed robbery outside a convenience store near the Tennessee campus.
Jackson has already had multiple disciplinary issues, including a failed drug test, which was one of the factors leading to his suspension for the Memphis game two weeks ago.
At this point, Jackson's only chance of surviving revolves around having the felony charges reduced or dismissed. His attorney has maintained that Jackson is innocent of the charges.
According to the police report, he wasn't one of the two players who actually attempted to rob the two victims while they were sitting in their car at the convenience store. But he was there at the scene and in the car when the players were stopped by police.
Meanwhile, they move on toward what’s looking more and more like it will be an unbeaten matchup in the SEC championship game on Dec. 5.
At this point, style points are mere fluff for both teams. All they need to do is keep winning.
Florida did that with a 24-14 win over South Carolina after turning the game around in the fourth quarter thanks to Justin Trattou’s interception and 53-yard return. Alabama pounced on Mississippi State in the second quarter and cruised to a 31-3 romp.
Here’s a look at what all we learned in the SEC in Week 11:
1. High Tide offense: Suddenly, Alabama is hitting big plays and spreading the ball around again, which is good news for what’s coming down the road. For the second straight week, the Crimson Tide were more explosive on offense with several different players getting involved. Most encouraging to Alabama fans is that receiver Julio Jones has scored on long touchdown catches for two straight weeks now after scoring just one touchdown in a span of 16 games heading into the LSU game a week ago. When he’s scoring from long distance and involved in this offense, Alabama becomes an entirely different animal offensively. Quarterback Greg McElroy also connected with Darius Hanks on a 45-yard touchdown in the first half. Jones’ 48-yard touchdown came in the second half after Mississippi State had scored its only points of the game. And then on Alabama’s next possession, Mark Ingram burst through a huge hole up the middle and showed that he does indeed have breakaway speed on a 70-yard touchdown run. The Alabama players all talked about the need to generate more explosive plays coming out of that Tennessee game several weeks ago. Well, they’re coming in bunches now.
2. Ole Miss revival: Heading into Saturday’s game with Tennessee, Ole Miss owned one of the more deceiving 6-3 records in college football. The Rebels really hadn’t beaten anybody, with four of their wins coming over “powerhouses” Memphis, Southeastern Louisiana, UAB and Northern Arizona. They needed a quality win in the worst way and got it with their most impressive performance of the season in a 42-17 smackdown of Tennessee at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Not being more of a factor in the Western Division race this season was disappointing, especially given all the preseason hype. But the Rebels (7-3, 3-3) still have a chance to put together a memorable season. They haven’t won nine or more games in back-to-back seasons since 1961 and 1962 when John Vaught was running the show. Their convincing win over the Vols on Saturday and the fact that they’ve finally turned Dexter McCluster loose at running back puts them in a position to finish this season on a roll for the second straight year.
3. Selfish Vols: The Tennessee players went out of their way Saturday following their 42-17 loss to Ole Miss not to use the arrests of their three teammates earlier in the week for alleged attempted armed robbery as an excuse. Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin also barely mentioned it. Kudos to all of them for being so stand-up. But whether the whole embarrassing ordeal was or wasn’t a distraction (and you know it was to some degree), the actions of Janzen Jackson, Mike Edwards and Nu’Keese Richardson were the essence of selfishness. Obviously, they don't care one iota about their teammates, the football program or the university to even put themselves in that position two days before such an important game. Nobody’s passing judgment here. The legal process will run its course. But over and above whether or not they’re guilty of the crime in which they're charged, they deserve to be sent packing for their selfish actions and the sheer stupidity of the whole thing, if nothing else.
4. Fight still left in Gamecocks: You couldn’t help but go into that Florida-South Carolina game wondering if the Gamecocks were like a fighter that was dazed, hurt and just one punch away from hitting the canvas and not getting back up. But they showed that they have plenty of fight left, particularly on defense, and held in there time and time again despite being put in some terrible positions and getting down to the bare bones in terms of depth. The Head Ball coach sounds sincere about wanting to stick around for a few more years, and the way his team fought against the Gators was telling. The Gamecocks mailed it in this time a year ago. Anybody who really knows Steve Spurrier knows that he doesn’t want to go out this way. He likes the young talent in the program and genuinely believes there are better days ahead. He’s confident in this staff and is being careful this season not to let any frustration turn into negative vibes. After a bye next week, a win over Clemson on Nov. 28 at home could change the outlook on this season considerably heading to the bowl game.
5. Another round of scary injuries: These last couple of weeks in the league have seen more scary injuries than any of us want to see. There were long delays in the Ole Miss-Tennessee game and Auburn-Georgia game while players were immobilized and carted off the field for tests. Thankfully, it looks like Tennessee linebacker LaMarcus Thompson is going to be OK after suffering a stinger, and Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo has movement in all of his extremities after suffering a concussion. Going all the way back to the Tim Tebow concussion, there have been more of these type of injuries in the SEC than I can remember in some time. Just last week, Auburn safety Zac Etheridge had his season ended and possibly his career after being briefly paralyzed. He tore ligaments in his neck and cracked the fifth vertebra. There was also the scary scene with South Carolina receiver Moe Brown in the Alabama game where he had to be stabilized and taken to the hospital for tests following a violent hit. I think I speak for everybody in the SEC when I say this is a trend we all want to see end.
But with Kiffin staying mum, Tennessee athletic department officials confirmed Friday that none of the players facing charges -- safety Janzen Jackson, defensive back Mike Edwards and receiver Nu'Keese Richardson -- would make the trip and play in Saturday's game against Ole Miss.
Jackson's bond was reduced and he was released on his own recognizance Thursday afternoon. There was some hope among the Tennessee coaches that the charges might be dismissed against Jackson, paving the way for him to possibly play against the Rebels.
But those charges have yet to be dismissed, and the Knoxville Police Department is continuing to investigate the case, in part, to see if the degree of involvement in the attempted robbery was the same for all three of the players.
At this point, it sounds like Tennessee is braced to kick both Richardson and Edwards off the team, but is holding out hope that Jackson may make it if his charges are dismissed.
As for this weekend against the Rebels, Jackson's loss will sting the most. He had started in all but two games this season at free safety. With Jackson out, Tennessee will likely go with the combination of redshirt freshman Prentiss Waggner and true freshman Darren Myles Jr. at the free safety spot. They both played there last week when Jackson was suspended for the Memphis game.
Jackson not being available could also hurt the Vols' ability to play their nickel package when they go to extra defensive backs. Brent Vinson could see his role expand there.
Three of his players, all guys he recruited, were arrested early Thursday morning on attempted armed robbery charges after police said they attempted to rob some people sitting in a car outside a convenience store in Knoxville.
According to police, a powered pellet gun was found in the car the players were in after they were stopped by police near the dormitory on campus where the freshman players live at Tennessee.
Kiffin hasn't made any comment yet and probably won't until he gathers more facts about the case.
Janzen Jackson already has a couple of strikes against him, but if you read the police report, it sounds like he might not have been with the other two players when they actually went up to the car and tried to rob the victims.
Here's the other thing: Jackson is the best player among the three and one of the top freshmen in the SEC this season. So it will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out. His failed drug test, one of the things that led to his suspension from the Memphis game last week, won't help him.
Either way, Tennessee needs to act swiftly and decisively.
There's also a little cruel irony here for the Vols.
Remember Kiffin jokingly saying two weeks ago that maybe the Vols had earned a little "street cred" after rapper Lil Wayne dropped a reference to Kiffin talking (bleep) in one of his recent songs?
Well, this is the kind of "street cred" no program wants and can be poison for recruiting.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
|Joe Murphy/Getty Images|
|Tennessee freshman receiver Nu’Keese Richardson will be in for a rude reception on Saturday.|
Tennessee freshman receiver Nu’Keese Richardson was at the center of all the controversy last February that has made Saturday’s grudge match at the Swamp one of those must-see games of the 2009 college football season.
He knows what kind of reception is coming.
“It’s not going to be a nice one, I know that,” said Richardson, who was committed to Florida for nine months before changing his mind and signing with the Vols. “That’s why you play the game. I don’t worry about the outsiders. I just try to do my job to the best of my ability.”
Richardson, a Pahokee, Fla., product, is part of a promising freshman class for the Vols. Their debut against Western Kentucky had everybody talking.
But last week in the 19-15 loss to UCLA, the Vols’ freshmen all but disappeared from the radar. Running back Bryce Brown had 34 yards on 11 carries, and that’s about it.
Now it’s onto their first road game and not just any venue, either. The Swamp has been known to rattle the knees of the most battle-tested juniors and seniors.
Throwing a bunch of freshmen out there can really get dicey.
Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, though, said he won’t be hesitant to play his young guys, including putting Richardson back deep to return punts.
Fellow freshman David Oku has also been returning kickoffs for the Vols.
“You’ve got to have confidence in them, and they have to feel your confidence,” Kiffin said. “If you start pulling all your younger guys because you’re going into a hostile environment, I don’t know that that really shows you believe in your team.
“Are they going to be perfect? No, we’re going to try and make it perfect. But they need to play. We’re in our first year as a program, going into our third game. If you have a philosophy that you’re going to play your younger players that you know are eventually going to be great players, there’s going to be some pains in that.”
Kiffin can live with those pains and insists he won’t be scared to play his talent, no matter how young and inexperienced they are or what the storylines may be that particular week.
“You can’t just go back to the old-school theory and sit them on the bench and say they’re not ready because they’re too young and play all your older guys,” Kiffin said. “That’s not how we operate.”
It’s just that kind of thinking that sold Richardson on Kiffin and the Vols and pried him away from the defending national champion Gators, thus triggering a few comments from Kiffin at a certain recruiting breakfast back in February that are still ringing in the Gators' ears.
“His confidence level is beyond what you’d expect,” Richardson said of his head coach. “That’s one of the main things that I love about him.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Lane Kiffin was a little worried prior to the game about freshman Nu'Keese Richardson putting the ball on the ground.
Now we know why.
Richardson was back deep on the first punt of the game and made two mistakes. First, he didn't catch the punt in the air and let it drop. Then he didn't handle it cleanly and lost big yardage when he scrambled back to recover it.
Sure enough, Dennis Rogan was back deep for the Vols on the second punt.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Get ready to see a bunch of young players today for Tennessee.
True freshman receivers Nu’Keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague are both listed as starters along with senior Quintin Hancock.
True freshman Bryce Brown will be the second tailback on the field, and true freshman David Oku should also see the field sometime in the first half at running back.
True freshman Janzen Jackson will split time with Dennis Rogan at free safety. Redshirt freshman Aaron Douglas won’t start, but is expected to play some at right offensive tackle. He’s by far the best young offensive line prospect in the program.
The Vols plan to go with Art Evans and Marsalis Johnson as the starting cornerbacks against Western Kentucky.
On the injury front, junior defensive end Gerald Williams is dressed and expected to play. He missed some practice time this week with an ankle injury.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
At the offensive skill positions and in the secondary, the Vols could have several true freshmen playing key roles.
Bryce Brown, RB: Rated as one of the top running back prospects in the country, Brown looks like the complete package on tape. He's a powerful runner inside and has great breakaway speed on the perimeter. He's also impressed everybody on campus this summer with his work ethic and maturity. Senior Montario Hardesty will be the starter, but look for Brown to add some sizzle to the Vols' running game this season. First-year coach Lane Kiffin has promised to get his young talent on the field, and Brown may be the most talented of the bunch.
Nu'Keese Richardson, WR: Even before the Vols lost senior Austin Rogers for the season and junior Denarius Moore for several games, there were questions at receiver. Richardson will get a chance right away to show that he's the kind of game-breaking threat Tennessee lacked last season at receiver. He's not very big, but has great moves and is at his best after the catch. Like Brown, he won't have to wait long to get on the field, and Kiffin is committed to finding ways to get him the ball.
Montori Hughes, DT: It won't be entirely new for the 6-foot-4, 312-pound Hughes, who's a redshirt freshman and had the benefit of spring practice. He was one of the most pleasant surprises of the spring and provided the kind of muscle in the middle of the defensive line that will be critical for the Vols this fall. Seniors Dan Williams and Wes Brown are the projected starters at tackle, but Hughes will be a big part of the rotation and has the strength, agility and size to be a special player.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
There's yet another twist in the Lane Kiffin-Pahokee feud.
Remember that Florida Gators logo that once flanked Pahokee High School principal Ariel Alejo's e-mail address on the school's official Web site?
Well, it's suddenly disappeared and has been replaced by a Pahokee High School seal. Alejo's e-mail address is also no longer on his bio page.
Just a hunch, but maybe he got an e-mail or two from Tennessee fans who weren't real enamored with Alejo's decision to ban Kiffin and his Tennessee coaches from Pahokee school grounds.
I'm sure the e-mails were very cordial, though. Everybody plays nice when it comes to recruiting in the SEC.
Anyway, Alejo has said he wants Kiffin to come to Pahokee personally and apologize to school and community leaders for some of the insensitive (and stupid) things Kiffin said about Pahokee in the aftermath of Pahokee receiver Nu'Keese Richardson reneging on his nearly year-long commitment to Florida and switching to Tennessee on signing day.
Kiffin, in Cincinnati for a booster club speaking engagement on Wednesday, told Volquest.com that he's attempted to contact Alejo for a while now, but that Alejo has not responded. Kiffin has already apologized to Pahokee football coach Blaze Thompson, who's said he's anxious to move forward.
"Yeah, I've reached out [to Alejo], going way back and even last week," Kiffin said. "But that's all I can do, and that's all I can control. Some people's allegiances are to the college they graduated from."
Obviously, Kiffin has seen Alejo's bio, which states that he received his bachelor's degree from Florida.
Regardless of where this all leads, it doesn't sound like the Vols are going to throw up their hands and quit recruiting Pahokee. Defensive lineman Antonio Ford and receiver De'Joshua Johnson are two of at least six players at Pahokee who have scholarship offers from Tennessee.
The best thing the Vols have going for them in that area is assistant Eddie Gran, who was tremendously successful recruiting South Florida at Auburn under Tommy Tuberville.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The Pahokee High School campus is off limits to Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin and his assistants as far as school principal Ariel Alejo is concerned.
That is, until Kiffin comes to Pahokee personally and apologizes to school and community leaders for some of his not-so-flattering comments back in February concerning Pahokee.
One of the Vols' assistants, Eddie Gran, was reportedly told by Alejo that no one from Tennessee is allowed on the high school grounds until Kiffin satisfies certain demands -- namely coming to Pahokee and apologizing publicly. Kiffin has already apologized to Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson, but Alejo wants him to take it a step further.
Among the things Kiffin was quoted as saying after prying Pahokee receiver Nu'Keese Richardson away from Florida on signing day was: "For those of you who haven't been to Pahokee, there ain't much going on. You take that hour drive up from South Florida, there ain't a gas station that works. Nobody's got enough money to even have shoes or a shirt on."
Those are incredibly stupid things to say about any community.
Kiffin also implied that officials at Pahokee High School would have somehow sabotaged Richardson's scholarship papers had Richardson's family not faxed the scholarship papers from another school.
Remember, too, that it's not the first time Kiffin has been accused of trashing a community or even an entire state. South Carolina signee Alshon Jeffery and his coach, Walter Wilson, both said Kiffin told Jeffery during an early-morning phone conversation on signing day that he would be pumping gas for the rest of his life like all the other players from the state of South Carolina if he signed with the Gamecocks.
Kiffin has steadfastly denied making those comments.
But back to the Pahokee situation. Alejo, who has not returned phone messages by ESPN.com, might have more at stake here than just Pahokee having its feelings hurt by Kiffin's ill-advised comments.
If you go to Alejo's bio page on the school's official Web site, his e-mail address is flanked by a Gators logo.
There's nothing quite like recruiting in the SEC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Receiver Nu'Keese Richardson of Pahokee, Fla., became the second Florida commitment on Wednesday to switch his allegiance to Tennessee.
The 5-11, 160-pound Richardson had been committed to the Gators since last May, but signed with the Vols. He played quarterback his senior year of high school, but will be utilized as a receiver and return specialist for the Vols. He's rated by Scouts Inc. as the 13th best receiver prospect in the country.
Richardson joins running back Marsalis Teague of Paris, Tenn., as two guys who'd been committed to the Gators, only to change their minds and sign with the Vols on signing day.
Getting both Richardson and Teague is particularly big for new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin because they're two players the Vols didn't have a chance with under the previous staff. It's also a coup to beat Florida on two highly rated players in this first class.
But now comes the hard part: Beating the Gators on the field. Florida has won four in a row over Tennessee.