Signee profile: Nu'Keese Richardson

He was a quarterback, running back, receiver, safety and return specialist in high school, and one Tennessee signee says Vol coaches envision a similarly multiple role for him at the collegiate level.

"I think I do pretty much all of it well," Nu'Keese Richardson said. "They want to use me in different ways, just get mismatches and stuff like that."

It sounds as if the Big Orange plans to utilize Richardson much the way Florida utilized Percy Harvin the past three years.

"Yeah," Richardson said by phone from his home in Pahokee, Fla. "That's pretty exciting."

Richardson is pretty exciting, too. The 5-10, 175-pounder is a big play waiting to happen. Consider this evaluation from recruiting analyst Geoff Vogt of Scout.com, which rated Richardson the No. 6 receiver prospect in the entire 2009 signing class:

"Richardson is a dynamic play-maker with the ball in his hands. He is a gifted all-around athlete with elite acceleration who projects to be the type of weapon who gives you 3-4-5 plays a game that are 'big plays' or 'clutch'.

"He has an extra gear when he is in pads which shows off his competitiveness. With a free release from the line of scrimmage he can't be covered, so he projects to the slot or to be used in motion. He does lack ideal size, but he is from the Muck and a very tough player, so it should not be a concern."

Richardson acknowledges his explosiveness, noting: "There are things I can do in open space once I get the ball in my hand. I bring excitement. I also do kick and punt returns. I'd definitely like a chance to do that at Tennessee."

Playing mostly quarterback last fall, Richardson passed for 1,020 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also managed to catch 22 passes for 373 yards and rush for another 234 yards in guiding Pahokee to its third consecutive state title.

Richardson weighed 165 during his senior year of high school ball but has added 10 pounds of muscle this spring.

"I'm 175 pounds now, and I think I'm a little quicker from playing basketball and being in the weight room," he said. "I'm trying to stay active, do some running and not get too lazy."

Somehow Nu'Keese Richardson and the word "lazy" just don't connect. This is a young man who played three offensive positions and safety for Pahokee's football team, played point guard for the basketball team, pitched and played outfield, first base, second base and third base for the baseball team and ran the 4x100 relay for the track team.

After originally committing to the Florida Gators, Richardson changed his mind shortly before National Signing Day last February and decided to become a Volunteer.

"I love everything about Tennessee," he explained. "I love the coaches, the facilities and everything."

Moreover, Richardson says he has been overwhelmed by "the fan base," noting that Tennessee supporters are "everywhere. I know a few of them personally, and we talk from time to time."

Richardson's late switch to Tennessee prompted a little boasting from head coach Lane Kiffin, who noted in February that Pahokee generally steers its players to Gainesville. Another quote, attributed to Kiffin by a Florida newspaper, portrayed Pahokee as a backwoods town and aroused the ire of some city and school officials. Vol aide Eddie Gran was asked to leave the campus while on a recruiting visit two weeks ago, and the ensuing media storm took on a life of its own.

The storm finally passed Tuesday afternoon, when Kiffin apologized by phone to principal Ariel Alejo and a few town officials who had met with Gran at City Hall.

No one was happier to see the whole mess conclude than the guy caught in the middle of it.

"I feel it was blown out of proportion," Nu'Keese Richardson said. "I'm glad it's OK now."

Pronouncing himself academically eligible, Richardson says he plans to enroll at UT in time for the first session of summer school.

"My first goal is to be in class every day, take care of my academics," he said. "Then, on the field, I want to help Tennessee win. I have heart, and I'll do anything for my team. Just being around me makes you want to compete harder and take your game to another level."


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