November 12, 2009

Kiffin addresses arrests; Jackson meets

Lane Kiffin repeatedly declined comment Thursday afternoon in the wake of the arrests of three Tennessee freshman football players at a Cumberland Avenue gas station near the University of Tennessee campus.

True freshmen defensive back Mike Edwards, safety Janzen Jackson and wideout Nu'Keese Richardson were arrested and charged with armed robbery early Thursday morning.

"Just as (athletics director) Mike Hamilton said today, we're gathering all the information in and until then we really have nothing for you," Kiffin said. "The only thing I can give is that Janzen has been released and we'll deal with the three situations coming up. But until we have all the information, I can't comment any further on it."

Kiffin likewise refused to rule out Jackson, who at that time was the only player who had been released from jail, for Saturday's game at Ole Miss. Kickoff is noon ET. Jackson was on campus Thursday evening to meet with Kiffin and other UT athletics department personnel following the Vols' practice and his afternoon release from jail.

"I have to get all the information in and talk to all the people and figure out exactly what happened," Kiffin said. "Like I said, the only thing I have on it is that Janzen has been released."

Shortly after Kiffin's comments following the Vols' final practice before Saturday's game at Ole Miss, Edwards also was released from jail after making bond of $19,500. Edwards was required to provide 10 percent of the bond -- $1,950. It was unclear if Edwards would likewise meet with Kiffin and Hamilton, as Jackson had done.

All three players have played this season for Tennessee, which has won its last two games and improved to 5-4 with three games remaining.

Jackson has garnered the most playing time and notoriety, starting seven of the Vols' nine games at safety. The former five-star prospect was suspended last week for Tennessee's 56-28 win against Memphis. It has been indicated by multiple sources that Jackson may have failed a drug test. The 6-foot, 180-pounder was named SEC Freshman of the Week following the Vols' Halloween win against South Carolina and has recorded 33 tackles, broken up three passes and forced and recovered one fumble.

Jackson told reporters on Wednesday that his one-game suspension had been a learning experience and that he intended to make better decisions so as not to lose additional playing time.

"It kind of felt like being injured and watching your team, which happened to me my freshman year of high school and then my senior year. It kind of had the same feeling, but to know it was my fault because … it kind of feels a little bit worse," Jackson said. "It's in the past now and back to work.

"Yeah, it does. It does (impact future decisions)."

Darren Myles Jr. or Prentiss Waggner are battling to start in Jackson's place. Waggner started last week's game, but Myles played before suffering back and hip injuries. Kiffin said Myles moved around relatively well during Thursday's practice.

Richardson, a Pahokee, Fla., native who recently missed a Vols' Sunday workout, has played in all nine of the Vols' games, though he's garnered just two starts and had seen his role in the offense and special teams diminish in recent weeks. Richardson, however, caught his first touchdown pass in the Vols' win against Memphis and recorded three receptions for a career-best 54 yards.

Richardson told on Sunday that he had leaned on the support of his two aunts who raised him since his mother's untimely death in his youth and also had read scripture from the Bible.

"I always lean on my aunts. My aunts are my everything. They've helped me through a lot of situations and they've always been there for me. They know the best thing for me. I love my aunts to death," Richardson said.

"They basically told me to keep my faith, read your bible, things like that and to stay humble."

The incident involving the three players occurred around 1:43 a.m., according to a Knoxville Police Department report. Kiffin declined to address whether his players were under rules of a curfew. It is believed that UT personnel were first contacted around 2:30 a.m.

"First of all, the information that I have does not say that that's the time," Kiffin said of the incident happening around 2:30 or in that vicinity. "But I'm not going to comment any further on this."

Kiffin praised the practice approach of the remainder of his team on Thursday.

"It's got nothing to do with what's going on with these guys. We needed to have a good practice today to prepare for a big-time game and I thought the guys came out today and had a really good practice," Kiffin said. "I thought they were very sharp, very focused. Good intensity out here. We still have a lot of work to do before the game."

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