Tennessee fans concerned about freshman Nu'Keese Richardson need not worry, said coach Lane Kiffin. The speedy freshman is back at practice after taking care of "personal issues."
Richardson was not in Sunday's practice, fueling speculation about his future with the Vols. Kiffin said Richardson was frustrated because he wanted to be contributing.
Kiffin also said he had to keep reminding himself that last Saturday was a big win over South Carolina, because he felt the team could have played so much better.
Here is the University of Tennessee's release on Kiffin's comments:
"This is a big game for us this week, an in-state rivalry. We know they are going to come and play. I would imagine this is the biggest game of the season for them. I know they have a bunch of Tennessee kids on their roster. We don't have to look any further than the last time they came in here and almost beat Tennessee. Tennessee came out with a four-point win. Then go all the way back to a Peyton Manning-led team that Memphis was able to beat, a really good Tennessee team. Our guys will be well aware of that. We are going to have to have a great week of practice, a very physical week. We will open up a couple of starting spots for some competition to make sure our guys understand that we need to continue to improve and get ready for a tough game.
On which spots will become open:
"We are going to open up the left guard spot, the nickel corner and the fullback spot. We are also going to open up the left end on third down, the mike linebacker spot and the back-up defensive tackle spot. There will be a lot of competition this week for guys to earn playing time and to make sure that guys are practicing extremely hard and physical.
On Nu'Keese Richardson:
"There is no situation on Nu'Keese Richardson. Nu'Keese was dealing with some issues, some personal issues on Sunday. He was in yesterday and everything is fine.
"He is a little-bit frustrated like a lot of freshmen around the country are. Especially when you are potentially a really great player and you've had great success in high school. Then you come in and things are different in college than they were in high school. Nu'Keese will continue to develop, we will continue to work with him, and he will eventually be a great player.
"I just think he is frustrated in general. Like I said, there are a lot of freshmen around the country that want to come in and do so well right away, and Nu'Keese has struggled a little bit. He has to continue to develop and work on the little things, be more consistent in practice, and eventually he will be a great player.
On getting more out of Nu'Keese Richardson than what he has given:
"I do that with everybody. We have extremely high expectations for all of our players, especially our freshmen. So, I think all of our freshmen, when they get here, are going to be All-Americas and be great players for us. He has made a few plays for us but we haven't given him a ton of opportunities. He's got to be more consistent in practice and do things better. He realizes that and this will be a big week of practice for him.
"I sat down with him for a while yesterday. We made sure he understands -- and we have been through this a million of times with a bunch of great players their freshmen year -- about going through some ups and downs. Freshmen who do not play sports in college even go through ups and downs. Let alone with Nu'Keese having all the pressure coming from Florida and all the pressure on him of being great that he puts on himself because he has high standards. He wants to be a great player; he wants to go to the NFL and make a bunch of money to support his family. He just has to be patient and do the little things. Like I said, it will come; he will be a great player.
On losing Savion Frazier:
"Losing Savion Frazier, we have now lost our second starting linebacker for the season at a position that was already not very deep. Our guys are going to have to do a great job. Our staff is working on different options. We are going to open it up and Herman Lathers and Nigel Mitchell-Thornton will be in there and play a bunch this week at practice to figure out who is the best player. Maybe both of them will end up playing. They are going to have to step up because this is such a valuable position. We saw what happened when Nick Reviez went out. In the transition to Savion Frazier, we played about six quarters of our worst defense. We are going to need guys to step up around them and play better too if we are going to keep up this great defensive run we have been playing lately.
On Herman Lathers and Nigel Mitchell-Thornton's progress:
"They're both freshmen. They both have a bunch of talent. Herman is extremely fast and Nigel is very physical. We will figure it out in practice and it will show up in practice. We are going to have a very physical practice -- starters versus starters, ones versus ones -- in practice this week and figure out who the best player is."
WBIR.com/University of Tennessee