John Adams: Tennessee's 'Tiny' has big goals

John Adams

'Tiny' Richardson healthy and finding spot on O-line

Antonio Richardson

Antonio Richardson

If you want to feel better about Tennessee football, I recommend you spend some time with offensive lineman Antonio Richardson.

He's an imposing figure even when he's trying to catch his breath, which he was Friday afternoon when he met with the media following UT's spring scrimmage.

I couldn't resist asking the obvious: "You been running?"

"Yes, sir," Richardson said. "Some up-and-downs, about 25 of them."

It wasn't a conditioning drill. It was Richardson's punishment for an offsides penalty.

By the time he finished explaining the drill, he was breathing normally and I was remembering John Henderson, UT's former All-American defensive tackle, who was recently released from the Oakland Raiders after making millions of dollars in the NFL.

Both played high school football at Pearl-Cohn in Nashville. Both had nicknames related to their size. Henderson is "Big John." Richardson is "Tiny."

Comparison of note: Tiny looks bigger than Big John as a freshman. He's listed as 6-foot-6, 325 pounds and looks every bit of it. Like Henderson, who was 6-7, 280 as a freshman, Richardson could pass for a basketball player if you ignored his biceps, which are bigger than some forwards' calves.

An NFL team would be tempted to draft Richardson on looks alone. Although a preseason shoulder injury slowed his development as a freshman last fall, the Vols have opened up a tackle position for him this spring.

"I had a couple of missed assignments," he said of his first spring scrimmage. "Overall, I did pretty well. I give a lot of credit to Dallas (Thomas).

"There may be a play where there's a safety rotation or a shift and I get confused with what's going on. Dallas will make a call. Once I get a call, I know what to do."

Thomas, a two-year starter at tackle, has moved to left guard, alongside Richardson. With all the other starters returning in the offensive line, the group has depth and experience.

No one is more aware of that than offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who points out: "A few years ago when somebody got hurt (in the offensive line), it was like 'who is the guy going out there?' "

Based on playing time, Richardson would be the least known of the bunch. But he's winning over his more experienced teammates.

"He's got a lot of leadership skills, and he's got that dynamic personality," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "He's hard not to like."

It's significant that Richardson even thinks about leading as a freshman. But he doesn't just think about it. He includes it on the list of goals that's he has posted on a wall. The list is nothing new. He started writing down his goals when he was a high school sophomore.

"Keep God first is No. 1," he said. "Keep a 2.5 or higher in my grade-point. Of course, I want to be All-American, All-SEC."

He already looks the part.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 7

FEARinSEC writes:

WOW, finally an article from Adams that doesn't bring up the KY loss!

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

Richardson is just the type of kid this program desperately needs. He's going to be a good one. Enjoy.

Vol_Stuck_in_GA writes:

Sounds like "Tiny's" heart may be bigger than he is even. I love that he lists God as his number 1 priority. I expect great things from Mr. Richardson this year and in the years to come.

johnlg00 writes:

Maybe the O-line will be able to get some push in the running game and maybe Jay Graham will teach the backs how to find and explode through some holes. If so, the Vol offense should really light up the scoreboard this year. They could really help the retooling defense if they could grind out some long drives.

FWBVol writes:

I beleive we will see a significant improvement in several areas of our football team this year. Having Tiny next to Dallas on the left side of the offensive line should allow us to do a lot of things in both the running game and passing game.

I'm also excited about the defense and the changes that are taking place on that side of the ball. Although in different formations, I think we will see the aggressive style of D we were used to during the glory days under Chief.

I won't predict a division, conference or national championship this year, but I think we will seen considerable improvement and will start the climb back to the top.

I'll admit to being spoiled by our success in the 1990s like every other UT, but it says something about the history of Tennessee football when fans complain that we hit rock bottom after a 5-7 season.

At Vandy they give coaches raises and contract extensions for going 5-7.

TeamXer writes:

in response to FEARinSEC:

WOW, finally an article from Adams that doesn't bring up the KY loss!

He knew you would do that.

AllVol1 writes:

Key point from Tiny: Dallas sees rotations/adjustments and makes a call. This is huge and it is why Dallas will be on the field in some spot, probably guard. We need a lineman who can help Tyler identify what defenses are doing. That coupled with Bray's developing ability to accurately check-down plays will be more beneficial to this offensse than almost anything else.

Correct reads= picking up blitzes, exploiting what the defense "gives" you, finding the running lanes, finding the open field, being able to play fast off the line, seeing defensive tendencies in real time, exploiting defensive tendencies with counters.

This is why it is said over and over that the battle starts in the trenches. It is more than just being big and strong (and I am happy that our line is big and strong too!).

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