Kiffin living life in the fast lane
Up until the early hours of last Thursday morning, University of Tennessee freshman wide receiver Nu’Keese Richardson was best known as the player at the center of the Lane Kiffin-Urban Meyer recruiting fiasco last February. Richardson, a standout from Pahokee, Florida, backed out of his yearlong oral commitment to the Gators on signing day and chose Kiffin and the Volunteers instead.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the allegations Kiffin made towards Meyer the next day at a Vols recruiting breakfast, comments that he was later reprimanded for by the SEC, so I will spare you with the details. What’s important here is that Kiffin made Richardson out to be a crown jewel in his first recruiting class, so much so that he even ripped into the town of Pahokee and its school system for its supposed less than stellar knowledge of the recruiting process.
And after all of that, Richardson’s brief tenure in Knoxville has ended, as Kiffin dismissed both Richardson and freshman defensive back Mike Edwards from the program on Monday after both were charged with attempted armed robbery.
On a teleconference just the day before the incident, Kiffin had praised his Vols for not engaging in negative off-the-field behavior on his watch. And just a few weeks ago, Kiffin chided SEC commissioner Mike Slive for issuing behavioral warnings to the first-year Volunteers coach.
The third player involved in this alleged incident, freshman safety Janzen Jackson, has not yet been dismissed but is not participating in team activities.
Jackson, who had started in all but two games and had emerged as one of the better freshman players in the SEC, was suspended for last week's game against Memphis for what was reportedly a failed drug test.
Not a good pattern.
I’m sure many SEC fans outside of Knoxville will joke that Richardson’s much-hyped career resulted in eight meager catches for 101 yards, in addition to 58 rushing yards. One hundred and fifty-nines yards for all that hoopla in the offseason.
But as much as we should be hoping that Richardson finds the right path in life, this all goes back to Kiffin and his thunderous arrival in Knoxville.
Let me preface this by stating that I understand a single head football head coach—no matter how well-paid or glorified—can have control of every single young man on his football team. I get that. It’s difficult for even a basketball coach with a much smaller roster.
Rather, I just hope that if the charges are true, Nu’Keese Richardson isn’t going to become the norm at Tennessee.
I absolutely loved the way Kiffin asserted himself in Knoxville when he first stepped onto campus. I admired his brash entrance onto the SEC stage. It took marbles.
It was also great to see Kiffin get a second chance in his coaching career after being exiled in Oakland with the Raiders. It truly seemed like a genuinely nice story, topped by bringing along father Monte from Tampa Bay.
I quickly came to realize that nice stories are often complicated when recruiting battles are taking place.
Still, I looked forward to the Tennessee-Florida game becoming a main attraction again.
And as bad as they were last year, the play of the Volunteers on the field this season had made it clear that Kiffin was making an impact in Knoxville. Before this distraction, the Vols were 5-4 with wins over Georgia and South Carolina, and respectable showings against the Gators, Auburn and Alabama.
He was able to get Jonathan Crompton to look like a respectable SEC QB while Montario Hardesty ran with a purpose. The future looked bright.
Now the team must regroup after last week’s off-the-field embarrassment and the beatdown against Ole Miss.
Hopefully this ends up being an isolated incident because I want to see Kiffin have a long stay in Knoxville, with him and Meyer having their annual September showdown for many years to come.
Hopefully this ends up being a case of immature kids committing a terribly stupid mistake.
To his credit, Kiffin sent a message to his team with the dismissal of the players charged. He proclaimed in a statement,"Our student athletes must be responsible members of society, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated."
Gators fans are probably laughing hysterically and saying "I told you so." And you know what? They should be—that’s perfectly fair—because passionate fans are what makes college football so great. However, also remember that Richardson was nearly a Gator. And that no program—no matter how much it may look squeaky clean from the outside—is ever without its faults and misdeeds.
Most importantly, though, Lane Kiffin cannot have any more off-the-field transgressions such as the one that occurred last Thursday. Not because it’s bad for the kids and the program—that’s obvious.
Things like this can’t happen anymore because it would damage Kiffin’s credibility even further, which was the main criticism he was battling even before the opening kickoff of the season.
Dave Miller is the Web Manager of the National Football Post. He enjoys coffee at any time of the day, CW teen dramas and has an appreciation for girls in boots. You can follow him on Twitter at Miller_Dave, where he constantly chronicles every moment of his mundane life.