Pahokee wide receiver Nu’Keese Richardson is a very good prospect, a fast little guy who can do a lot of things with the ball in his hands. But he’s not exactly Andre Debose or Jelani Jekins or Gary Brown, the elite prospects in Florida’s recruiting class.
So, really, losing Richardson to Tennessee on signing day wasn’t all that big a deal. Wide receivers like him come along every year. But the way Lane Kiffin is spinning his big signing day coup, you’d think he’d stolen the Pope from under the Vatican’s nose, bragging about how the Vols duped Urban Meyer and the Gators.
Richardson committed to the Gators way back in May 2008 and had been solid throughout the recruiting process. Then he made a relatively secretive visit to Knoxville last weekend and Kiffin sold him on being a Vol. To make sure it happened on signing day, Kiffin plotted a plan to mislead Florida and everyone else, including Edward Aschoff, who covers recruiting for The Sun and Gatorsports.com.
Kiffin revealed the story at a recruiting celebration breakfast Thursday morning in Knoxville, the same event where he falsely accused Urban Meyer of an NCAA violation in the recruitment of Richardson. (Kiffin was later reprimanded the SEC and apologized to Meyer and UF).
He set up the story by saying how difficult it is for an out of state school to pluck a top player out of Pahokee.
“Let me break this down so that you guys understand in recruiting what this means to get this done,” he said. “Pahokee is probably the hardest area in Florida to ever go into as an out of state school or a school not named Florida Gators and get a guy. And for (assistant coach) Eddie Gran to be hired only less than three weeks ago to go down in there. … 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. This is an area that great players have come from for years, but you’ve got to have the right guy to go in there. If we didn’t have Eddie Gran on out staff, we probably don’t get in the school.
“Nu’Keese was a champion the whole way through. We set the whole thing up. Nu’Keese came out and said at one point, I believe on Friday in the Miami paper, that he wasn’t even coming to visit us. We had a great plan to steer Florida away from this guy so they thought we weren’t getting him. The pressure would stay off of him. They’d think they still had him.”
After Richardson committed to Kiffin on his visit last weekend, Kiffin instructed Richardson to lie about remaining committed to Florida. And he did. Only hours before Richardson’s scheduled announcement at Pahokee. Aschoff texted Richardson to try and find out what his decision was going to be. Richardson replied that he was going to sign with the Gators (the UF coaches were assuming this as well).
At the ceremony, Richardson stunned everyone when he picked up a UF hat and then tossed it on the ground. The audience gasped when he pulled on a UT cap.
“You can’t understand how hard this is to get done,” Kiffin said. “(Gran) had this set up at 7 o’clock in the morning. They (Richardson’s aunts) got the papers signed by the kid. They didn’t go do it at the school because they knew somebody at the school was going to screw it up. The fax machine wouldn’t work, or they would have changed signatures, all the things that go on in Pahokee now. The aunts took it over to a junior high, found a fax machine and faxed them over to us at 7 o’clock, and I kept it in a drawer until their 1 o’clock press conference.”
Two things jump out about this.
One, we don’t know if Richardson will catch any passes for Kiffin, but we do know he’ll lie for him.
Two, good luck ever going back into Pahokee again. The way Kiffin dissed the school in that last quote, he’ll probably be banned for life.
So, was all this really worth it for a relatively insignificant recruiting coup?