Tiny incentive: UT Vols' Richardson eager for Jadeveon Clowney rematch

Tiny incentive: UT Vols' Richardson eager for Jadeveon Clowney rematch

October 16th, 2013 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley (14) talks with offensive lineman Antonio Richardson (74) at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

Jadeveon Clowney

Jadeveon Clowney

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE - Antonio "Tiny" Richardson has had Oct. 19 circled on his calendar for 354 days and counting.

Tennessee's big, talented left tackle long has anticipated his rematch with Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina's all-everything defensive end, since the likely No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft beat him inside, sacked Tyler Bray and forced a game-saving fumble in the Gamecocks' 38-35 win in Columbia, S.C., last October.

Already a fiery player on the field, Richardson surely will be amped up more for Saturday's rematch than for any other game he's played in his Tennessee career.

The trick for the Volunteers, particularly this week, is managing the junior's emotions and keeping them in check.

"Tiny and I have that conversation every week," Tennessee coach Butch Jones told the Times Free Press after Tuesday's practice. "Tiny's a great competitor, and he has great standards and expectations for himself. It gets back to our whole program philosophy of a snap-and-clear mentality.

"You can't let the last play negatively affect you, or if you have success, the same thing: You can't let it affect the next play and the next play or the play you had three snaps ago affect you. When we talk about snap-and-clear, there's a meaning behind that. We talk about that with Tiny each and every day.

"But when you're a competitor, you want to play against the best of the best, and their defensive front's one of the best defensive fronts we're going to face."

The rematch between the two players became a talking point at SEC media days in July, when Clowney said what he remembered most about facing Richardson was that "he is the best at holding and getting away with it." Richardson's response the following day: "I have enough motivation."

Richardson was emotional following the meeting last season, when he left the field with a bloody nose and was jeered by some South Carolina fans as he walked off. Earlier this season, he got heated at the end of Tennessee's win against South Alabama and went to the locker room before any other player after Jones got in his face and yelled at him.

Though Jones and the Vols' coaches will talk to the 6-foot-6, 325-pounder about maintaining his poise, the task on the field Saturday falls to the players around him, particularly the rest of Tennessee's offensive line.

"I know he's excited for this game, but he hasn't done anything extra or anything like that," said right tackle Ja'Wuan James, who's hoping for a couple of shots at blocking Clowney himself.

"It's definitely all our jobs as offensive linemen. You know your personnel. You know Tiny's a hyper, excited guy. He wants to get after it. If we see him getting loose or anything like that, whether it's James [Stone], Bull [Alex Bullard], Zach [Fulton], just talking to him and him responding to focus back in."

Added Jones: "We talk about it not just with Tiny, but we talk about having each other's back, and we always talk about being accountable to each other. This game is no different in terms of preparing our mindset or how we react. We do that every week."

Clowney has yet to make the impact he made last season, and he's faced public scrutiny and had his dedication to his team questioned. When South Carolina played Kentucky two weeks ago, Clowney told his coaches just before the game he was too hurt to play.

Steve Spurrier, the head coach who against Tennessee is 14-7 and 5-3 since going to South Carolina, clearly was frustrated after the game, but he said the following week the situation was handled poorly.

Clowney, who's followed up a 13-sack 2012 season with just two this year, started and made two tackles last week against Arkansas in South Carolina'a 52-7 trouncing.

"You have to make sure he's accounted for on every snap," Jones said, "but they also have great players around him."

Fulton said Richardson has been awaiting his second -- and final, though both players are only juniors -- shot at Clowney "probably since the game ended" a year ago, but Jones adamantly stated his opinion: "Too much is made of that."

Richardson would disagree with his coach, but he can't let his own adrenaline and drive to exact revenge for the one play Clowney beat him on a year ago to induce an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty or hurt his blocking technique this year.

"There's going to be a lot of money made between them two guys on that end of the line of scrimmage," tailback Rajion Neal said. "He should really just have fun. I would be looking forward to the challenge and just having fun."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.