Special specialist

Saturday's Tennessee-Florida football game will feature two of the NCAA's most exciting return specialists.

The Gators' Brandon James might be the most electrifying player in all of college football. Vol freshman Nu'keese Richardson can be pretty exciting, too, though not always in a positive way.

Richardson muffed a punt in Game 1 vs. Western Kentucky, then was tackled in the end zone trying to return a punt that bounded past him in Game 2 vs. UCLA. The latter would've cost Tennessee a safety except that the ball went into the end zone on its own momentum.

"Actually, I didn't know I was in the end zone until I looked down and I seen the checkerboard," Richardson recalled this week. "Then I thought, 'Hmmm, that was a bad decision on my part.'"

Head coach Lane Kiffin made that point abundantly clear moments later as Richardson trotted off the field.

"Once I came to the sideline I held my head down," the freshman recalled, "and I was ready to take it like a man."

Richardson muffed a punt in each the last two preseason scrimmages and in Game 1. He looked shaky each time but says he feels much more relaxed fielding punts now.

"Most definitely," the 5-10, 165-pounder said. "I feel real comfortable when the ball is in the air. I know I can get it and make something happen."

Head coach Lane Kiffin thinks so, too. That's why he's sticking with the speedy freshman.

"We've got to do a better job blocking for him," Kiffin said. "We've been very close. It's the same old story: We're one block away from hitting the big one, where we can really see his speed and really see him run.

"We're excited about him this week."

Excited in a positive way, preferably.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories