Tennessee Vols Football: Kiffin's Quandry

Joel Barker@joelabarkerSenior Writer IJune 24, 2016

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A horribly, unexpected thing happened on my way to writing about the great future that the Tennessee football team has begun to build prior to the Mississippi game.
I was going to write about how the Ole Miss and Tennessee programs are looking up! I had it all planned out.
Houston Nutt vs. Lane Kiffin: Which coach will return their program to glory first?
It was really cool too. I was going to talk about how the young talent that Lane Kiffin has put together in less than 12 months on the job was quickly turning things around in Knoxville. Bright futures and big plans for the Big Orange was going to be the theme of the day!
I was going to contrast it with what Houston Nutt is doing at Ole Miss.
Alas, I will not have that chance.
The story now has become three idiots on Tennessee’s football team that have completely trashed their futures and have become a gigantic distraction for the Vols heading into a big game.
At 2 AM this morning, promising freshmen Nu’Keese Richardson and Mike Edwards attemped to rob two men waiting outside a convenience store. Jackson was with the two but reportedly was in the restroom as the crime was taking place. Whether he did anything or not, he was with these guys after curfew just days after missing a game due to a failed drug test. 
The first question becomes, why? These are three extremely talented football players. Three players that likely were going to help return the glory to Tennessee football before forging nice NFL careers for themselves.
Hope it was worth it, fellas.
So now we shift from returning the glory to regaining respect.
Whatever Lane Kiffin decides to do in the next few hours will be extremely important to his future at Tennessee.
The fan-favorite, rock star coach has a chance to earn a ton of respect in the immediate hours that follow this morning’s dreadful news.
Lane Kiffin must make an example out of these players. “Do not pass Go. Do not Collect your Scholarship!”
Once Kiffin lays down the law, he must then turn his team’s attention to a big game—the biggest game remaining, as a matter of fact.
The freshman trio could not have worse timing for committing their first felony. This situation automatically becomes a huge distraction based solely on their roles on this team.
Jackson is a starter on defense—a starter that just two weeks ago won SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
Richardson caught three passes for 56 yards and a touchdown this past weekend.
Losing those two has to have an effect on this team.
Once again, the focus shifts to Lane Kiffin. The coach who has had so much attention for nearly a year; the coach who has called out referees, fellow coaches, and even a few players; the coach who loves the spotlight, must now prove just what he’s made of.
Kiffin must deal with the situation by kicking these players to the curb, and then he must immediately deal with the remaining players on his team.
He has to prove his leadership abilities right now.
Having to deal with a situation like this one, two days before a big game is not what any coach wants to do. But Kiffin must do it now.
Will he send a message to his current team? Will he send a message to future recruits? What will that message be? How will his current team respond on Saturday? 
There is no doubt two days before kickoff against a talented Ole Miss team; Lane Kiffin has the spotlight he so lovingly craves. What will he do with it?