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February 5, 2009
Speaking in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 fans at a "recruiting celebration" in Knoxville, University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin assessed his first recruiting class, trumpeted his coaching staff and engaged in what clearly has become a favorite past-time: verbal jousting with Florida coach Urban Meyer.
On National Signing Day Wednesday, the Vols garnered the signatures of two former Gators commitments - Paris, Tenn., native Marsalis Teague and Pahokee, Fla., product Nu'Keese Richardson.
Saving Richardson's highlights until the end of the 90-minute presentation, Kiffin delighted in recounting the 5-foot-9, 151-pound Richardson's recruitment. Kiffin indicated Florida's Meyer violated NCAA rules and showcased the value of new Vols running backs coach Eddie Gran, a South Florida recruiting staple.
"Just so you know, when a recruit's on another campus, you can't call a recruit on another campus," Kiffin said Thursday morning at the Knoxville Convention Center. "I love the fact that Urban had to cheat, and still didn't get him (Richardson). Great job man!"
While Richardson committed to the Vols during his official visit last weekend, he steadfastly maintained in media interviews he remained pledged to the Gators. That, Kiffin said, was part of Tennessee's plan.
"You can't understand how hard this is to get done. Eddie had this set up at 7 o'clock in the morning, they (Richardson's aunts) got the papers signed by the kid," said Kiffin, hired Dec. 1 to replace the fired Phillip Fulmer. "They didn't go do it at the school because they knew somebody at the school was going to screw it up, the fax machine wouldn't work or they would have changed the signatures. All the things that go on in Pahokee, now. The aunts took it over to a junior high, found a fax machine that worked and faxed them over to us at 7 o'clock and I kept it in a drawer till their 1 o'clock press conference."
The overall spirit of the morning event, which preceded similar stops in both Nashville and Memphis today, was festive as Kiffin joked with his assistant coaches on stage and even implored Alabama coach Nick Saban to "thank" former Crimson Tide and new Vols assistant coach Lance Thompson for the Tide's top-ranked recruiting class.
"Phenomenal event, tremendous energy in the room," said UT athletics director Mike Hamilton, who made the call for a change in direction for Vols football after Fulmer led the program for 16 seasons. "I thought Lane did a nice job interacting with the coaches and talking about the players. It's always good for folks who come to these events to get a little insight about the players and how everything transpires."