HOOVER, Ala. -- Antonio "Tiny" Richardson kept his initial response short and simple.
Tennessee's star offensive tackle was among the players a South Carolina defensive end called out during his interview session in the main media room at SEC media days on Tuesday, nearly nine months after the two players waged an intense battle throughout the Gamecocks' win in Columbia last October.
"The only thing I have to say is Jadeveon Clowney, he's a great player," the Volunteers' junior said Wednesday morning before his 14-part round of interviews began. "I give credit where credit is due. People are always going to remember that last play, but you know, you've just got to come in and be ready to be 100 percent next time."
Though Richardson controlled Clowney, who's receiving some Heisman Trophy hype and appears to be a lock for the No. 1 pick in next April's NFL draft, for nearly all of Tennessee's 38-35, the superstar junior got around the Vols' big man, hit quarterback Tyler Bray and forced a fumble that South Carolina recovered to preserve its win.
Earlier this offseason, Clowney said Richardson and Michigan's Taylor Lewan were the two best players he faced in 2012, but his tone changed a little bit on Tuesday.
"What I remember is he is the best at holding and getting away with it," he said. "But he does a good job at it, and if you don't get called for it, it's not a holding call, so I respect that 100 percent. He did pretty good against me. I told him that: 'You're a good offensive lineman. Keep doing what you've been doing. It's going to pay off.'
"I've seen he's getting a lot of hype about it, blocking me in that game, but you can't hold me for four quarters, though."
Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee's other offensive tackle, said he wasn't with Richardson when the comments reached him Tuesday night.
"They told us on the way here," the senior said. "I didn't get to see his reaction. He probably just laughed it off."
The comments haven't made their way onto any bulletin boards, either.
"I have enough motivation," said Richardson, who's been awaiting his rematch with Clowney almost since he walked off the field at Williams-Brice Stadium. "I don't need it."
Asked to recall the dueling players' on-field trash talk, Richardson joked he couldn't remember what I was said.
"I think it's all healthy competition," he continued. "That's just really how I love to play the game. He's a great player, and I give him all the credit."
Tennessee coach Butch Jones credited Richardson for how Richardson maintained his leadership presence during spring practice in which he was sidelined following offseason surgery.
"It's really challenging," he said, "when you're a player and you're not actively in there and you're not actively participating and you feel like you're not quite part of it.
"A compliment to Tiny is he kept leading."
That's a role Richardson shares with the rest of the Vols' veteran offensive line, and he's perhaps Tennessee's most talented player. He also has engaging personality off the field, and teammates both like and respect the big Nashville product. When Richardson plays, though, he's intense and fiery.
"Like any great player, Tiny has that competitive drive, that competitive spirit to want to be the best," Jones said. "He wants to be the best in everything that he does. He does the extra. He has the mental focus and the mental intensity that all great players have. It's kind of in their DNA."
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...