This should not be construed as celebrating the fact that three young men at Tennessee just irreparably damaged their football futures and possibly their lives with an unbelievably dumb decision. But a lot of people are laughing at Lane Kiffin right now.
Back on national letter-of-intent day in February, Kiffin, the new Tennessee coach, entertained Volunteer fans with a story about one of the team’s hot new recruits, Nu’Keese Richardson (video below). It seems Richardson, who also was being heavily recruited by Florida, was receiving cell phone calls from Gators coach Urban Meyer while he was taking his visit on the Tennessee campus.
Kiffin told the crowd at signing day that such a move was illegal and Meyer was “cheating.” Problem is, it wasn’t illegal and Meyer wasn’t cheating. That’s one of several times Kiffin has gotten into trouble for something he said since being hired.
That adds some irony to what happened early Thursday morning. Richardson was one of three Tennessee football players arrested and charged with armed robbery after trying to rob people outside of a convenience store at 2 a.m. All three players were prized recruits: Richardson, a freshman wide receiver from Pahokee, Fla.; Janzen Jackson, a freshman defensive back from Lake Charles, La.; Michael Edwards, a freshman defensive back from Cleveland.
We can’t predict how this case unfolds. But everybody who has been waiting to jump on Kiffin for something just got their wish. He actually has done a solid coaching job this season, given what he had to work with. The Vols are 5-4, drilled Georgia, 45-19, and had narrow losses to the top two teams in the nation, Florida and Alabama.
But this will be a distraction unlike any Kiffin has dealt with so far. Even if this was a random act by three teenagers, many will ask now if it’s a reflection of the coach’s first recruiting class or his program. Fair? Not at all. But when you come into a high-profile job in the SEC and seem intent on stirring things up, be prepared for what’s going to happen when something goes wrong.
QUICK UPDATE: Tennessee assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron said this at a Knoxville Quarterback Club meeting two weeks ago, when asked about recruiting tough guys: “We’re not angels and we’re not going to recruit a bunch of angels.”
Lane Kiffin’s signing day faux pas