CBS’ Bruce Feldman is doing his tour of college football spring practices, and yesterday he was in Tennessee.
Feldman spoke with massive 6-6, 330-pound offensive tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson, who was the anchor of one of the most underrated and strongest position groups in college football in ‘12. The Vols’ line finished 3rd best in the country, only yielding eight sacks the entire season. And Tyler Bray isn’t exactly the most mobile quarterback either.
Richardson only allowed two sacks in 12 games, which is even more impressive. But one of the two he yielded came from one of the offseason’s most talked about players in South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Tennessee was on the road in Columbia down 38-35 with 1:19 left and driving, inside the Gamecocks’ 20-yard line. Then, Clowney sprung lose from outside – from Richardson’s side – and strip-sacked Tyler Bray. Game over.
“He just hit me with a little counter inside head fake and went back out,” Richardson recalled. “That was really his bread-and-butter the whole game. I just kinda got lazy with my footwork that play and he beat me. It was the fourth quarter and we were moving down the field pretty quick. I thought I was in the groove of things but just for some reason, he got me. He is a big-time player.”
Richardson took the loss personally, blaming himself. That one play has irritated him all offseason, and he made sure to circle Clowney and South Carolina’s visit to Neyland Stadium on his calendar.
“I have it marked on my calendar [Oct. 19 in Knoxville] when we play them again,” Richardson said. “It’s going to be a good challenge for me. He is, hands down, the best defensive end in the nation. I took responsibility for that play last year.
“I was really disappointed. Of course, you want to be 100 percent but also because that is when the game was on the line, and big-time players have to make those plays when the game is on the line. That was just a little technique flaw by me. Little things like that are what makes the difference. I just can’t do that.”
Clowney racked up 13 sacks in 2012 and returns as one of the best defensive linemen in the history of college football. The in-game matchup between Richardson and Clowney won’t be the last time these hook up, either. Both are NFL-caliber players for years to come.
Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports