Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin saved wide receiver Nu’Keese Richardson’s highlight video for last at the recruiting celebration Thursday morning at the Knoxville Convention Center. It was easy to see why.
The 5-foot-9, 150-pound wide receiver from Pahoke, Fla., looked as much like a gymnast as a football player. He kept hurdling defenders into the end zone for touchdowns. Once, he leaped over a pair of defenders at the goal line before flipping into the end zone.
Getting Richardson away from Florida was almost as difficult as tackling him, based on how Kiffin described the recruitment to the UT fans. And he gave most of the credit to assistant coach Eddie Gran, a former Auburn assistant coach with a track record for recruiting talent-rich Florida.
“Pahoke, Fla., is the hardest area in Florida to go as an out-of-state school or as a school not named the Florida Gators,” Kiffin told a ballroom full of about 1,000 UT fans. “You’ve got to have the right guy to get in there.”
Kiffin said that if not for Gran, he doubted the Vols would have made any headway with Richardson.
“There are places, if you don’t have a prior relationship with the coach — and proven to him that you will take care of his kids — you’re not getting in that school. Eddie Gran had a great relationship with the people down there.”
Kiffin intimated that UT caught the Gators by surprise in recruiting Richardson.
“We had a great plan how to steer Florida away from this guy so they would think we’re not getting him,” Kiffin said. “So the pressure would stay off him down there, and they wouldn’t try to go get him.
“They would think they still had him.”
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.