Tennessee has always had a reputation of having players in trouble. How bad? The "Award" for the team with the most players arrested and charges pressed against them was named "The Fulmer Cup."
Many thought Lane Kiffin's hire would stop that trend and, for a time, it certainly seemed to have. But last night, three University of Tennessee players—all that Kiffin himself brought in and signed—were arrested.
This was not a drunken bar incident, a DUI or misunderstanding, but a full-fledged armed robbery. (Although police found out later it was a pellet gun.)
Nu'Keese Richardson, a freshman wide receiver from Pahokee, Fla., Janzen Jackson, a freshman defensive back from Lake Charles, La., and Michael Edwards, a freshman defensive back from Cleveland, were arrested a short time later. Each was charged with three counts of attempted armed robbery. This according to Knoxville police spokesman Darrell DeBusk.
Kiffin has not had time to make a public statement on the incident, however his actions and punishment will be closely watched by observers from around the country.
According to police, the victims told police that they were sitting inside their vehicle, parked next to a Toyota Prius, while a friend was inside the Pilot store.
"The victims stated that a black male then exited from the passenger side of the Prius, wearing a black hoodie, walked around to the front passenger door of their car, opened it and stated, ‘give us everything you've got,' " DeBusk said.
The victims told police that they all showed their wallets to the suspects. All the wallets were empty. A third black male then approached and told the other two suspects, "We've got to go," DeBusk said. The suspects then got into the Prius and drove away.
Police spotted the Prius a short time later and stopped the vehicle, arresting the three players.
"In plain view, officers observed two black hoodies on the back seat. Underneath the back seat, officers located a black, CO2-powered pellet gun," DeBusk said. "The suspects were taken back to the store, and the victims positively identified Edwards and Richardson as the two who approached their vehicle."
The players are still being held pending bail.
This is an unfortunate turn of events for Kiffin, who at least had kept the players in line amidst yet another disappointing season for Volunteer fans. This now leaves fans wondering if Kiffin or anyone can get a handle on this team and leaves questions about the type of players Kiffin is recruiting.
Nick Saban inherited a mess at Alabama with off-field problems. But for the years he's been at Alabama, no Saban recruit has been involved in any problems like this.
Kiffin is expected to make a statement later today, addressing both the crime and the expected punishment. For a young coach, this is a make-or-break moment and a opportunity to get a handle on the this team. Let's hope he handles it well.