The media quickly dubbed it the Nu-Gun. Head coach Lane Kiffin called it one of a million things Tennessee is testing in preseason camp.
“That’s what camp is for, to tinker with a bunch of stuff,” the first-year Tennessee coach said. “See how it looks. Some of it you keep and some of it you throw out.”
Either way, Nu’Keese Richardson’s debut at quarterback certainly raised some eyebrows on Monday. The speedy Richardson has already been one of UT’s standout freshmen, consistently turning in impressive plays at two receiver positions.
“Putting a lot on the kid,” Kiffin said. “He’s just a pup.”
Receiver Gerald Jones and safety Eric Berry played a similar role for UT last season. Jones, however, has a cast on his left wrist after off-season surgery and Kiffin wants both players to focus on their normal positions as they learn new playbooks.
Kiffin said he has no plans to try out any other athletic players at quarterback.
“If we’re going to do it, instead of splitting those reps, I’d rather concentrate on one guy,” he said.
That one guy is Richardson, who was a dual threat as a senior at Pahokee (Fla.) High School in 2008.
Playing quarterback, Richardson threw for 1,020 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a receiver, he caught 22 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns. Richardson, who is listed at a generous 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, also ran for 234 yards and three touchdowns.
There was nothing spectacular in Monday’s premier. Richardson threw a couple of incomplete passes and handed off to tailbacks in the new formation, once fumbling the exchange to Tauren Poole.
Injury Report: Defensive end Chris Walker (knee) didn’t finish practice in the Monday morning session then tried to go in the evening session but was pulled. The injury isn’t thought to be serious as Walker was often jumping around cheering on his teammates.
Center Josh McNeil and backup middle linebacker Herman Lathers missed practice time with head issues. Kiffin said Lathers might have as much ability as any UT linebacker.
“If he puts it all together, I think he has a chance to be really special,” Kiffin said.
Cornerback Brent Vinson (shoulder) and linebacker Rico McCoy (knee) were also held out.
“I think Brent is closer (to returning) than Rico,” Kiffin said.
McCoy said Sunday that he expects to return in about a week.
Kiffin said junior LaMarcus Thompson has played “really well” in McCoy’s absence and freshman Mike Edwards has played well in place of Vinson.
Cornerback Art Evans is day-to-day after suffering a knee injury on Saturday and did not practice on Monday. Denarius Moore said Sunday he should return from a foot injury the week of the Florida game (Sept. 19, the third game).
Kiffin was so hoarse following Monday’s evening session that he could hardly speak.
“I’m going to regroup tonight,” he said with a smile.
P.M. Practice Report: UT’s first two-a-day practice session left the Vols a bit gassed, especially in the early stages of the evening practice. However, UT’s players fought through the fatigue to finish strong, Kiffin said.
UT ended practice with a 10-play goal line series, which ended in a tie between the offense and defense. Kiffin said he was pleased that no penalties were committed during the drill.
Quarterback Nick Stephens ran for a score twice. UT’s defense registered stops on two running plays, a sack and a batted ball.
The Vols ran the drill amidst rap music and returned to the field for extra plays after practice had reached its scheduled stopping point.
“It was good to see our guys respond and come back out,” Kiffin said.
Doghouse: Freshman defensive back Mike Edwards and freshman defensive back Janzen Jackson clearly were in the doghouse Monday morning, and they paid for it. Neither took part in practice, but spent the entire three hours running, pushing blocking sleds, pulling dummies, carrying medicine balls, and doing crawls across the field. Both appeared exhausted at the end.
A.M. Highlights: Freshman running back Bryce Brown, who suffered a slight concussion Thursday, made a nice run during 11-on-11 drills, almost going down but steadying himself with a hand on the ground and turning a minus-yardage run into a gain. … Senior running back Montario Hardesty started the 11-on-11 drills by running through a hole for a big gain, and later broke two long runs. … Stephens threw a TD pass to Quentin Hancock across the middle during 11-on-11 drills, and in seven-on-seven drills another pass to fullback Austin Johnson for a TD, and a third TD pass to wide receiver Gerald Jones.
Freelance correspondent Dave Link contributed to this report.