Tennessee week is upon us and what comes to mind when you think Tennessee and recruiting? Obviously, it’s last year’s fiasco with Nu’Keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague!
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, here’s what happened with these guys.
First, it was Teague, one of the top players in the state of Tennessee in 2008 who worried Florida fans with his not-so-confident decision to stay committed to the Gators. He originally pledged to the Gators in mid-December and had Florida as his top school for most of the recruiting season. Then the cornerback started to worry about the number of defensive backs in Florida’s stable, prompting him to become a “soft” verbal to the Gators.
Teague then visited UT in late January and decided he would choose between the Gators and Vols on National Signing Day. UT coach Lane Kiffin stole that one from the Gators that day. Oh, and Teague, who worried about playing time on defense, is now a wide receiver for UT.
Now on to my favorite recruit, Nu’Keese Richardson. He hurt the most. Teague was a decent player, but Richardson was perfect for Florida’s offense and was a strong commitment for about seven months. Before I get into the Signing Day shenanigans that he — and possibly Kiffin — pulled, let’s revisit what he told FlaVarsity.com when he committed on May 30, 2008.
“My commitment is very firm to Florida,” the Pahokee receiver said. “That’s where I’m signing and enrolling. I’m completely sold on the program. I just wanted a chance to experience a lot of different places and obviously anything can happen, but I don’t see anything changing the fact that I’m a Florida Gator.”
But things became fishy with Richardson in the days before the final week for official visits, when rumors surfaced that he might be visiting UT along with teammate Jarvis Byrd. Richardson told me and other members of the media that he wasn’t going to visit, but low and behold, Richardson was in Knoxville on Jan. 30.
Of course, Richardson shrugged off his visit as just showing up in support of Byrd, but then came the text messages. Reportedly, Urban Meyer was texting Richardson while he was on his visit to UT, and instead of Richardson replying, Kiffin did.
On National Signing Day, Richardson took his game to the next level. With Gator fans freaking out about Richardson’s status, I decided to text him in the morning before his 2:30 announcement time. I asked him if things had changed in recruiting and if Florida had anything to worry about. He replied with a “No,” so I asked what time he’d be signing with Florida. Richardson said he’d be signing with the Gators at 2:30. Hours later, the recruit that no one thought would get away did. Kiffin then called out Meyer for “cheating,” for texting Richardson while on his official to UT. However, NCAA rules showed Meyer did nothing wrong. Kiffin also boasted about snatching Teague and Richardson from Meyer.
I have to hand it to Kiffin and his staff, they certainly know how to keep things interesting, and they know how to get the guys they want. Maybe their methods are a little questionable, but it’s working so far.
Richardson and Kiffin’s antics resulted into a rift between Pahokee High (and the town) vs. UT. Gator corner Janoris Jenkins, who was Richardson’s teammate at Pahokee, refused to utter his name when asked about him during the spring, summer and fall. It should be interesting if Jenkins holds his tongue this week as well.
If these guys get a chance to hear their names over the loudspeaker inside The Swamp on Saturday, they should expect a resounding Boooooo! Maybe not so much Teague, who never seemed to lead anyone on, but Richardson should receive the harshest response from not just fans but the players, if Kiffin has the guts to play him.