As far as announcements of these types that will come over the next month and a half or so, this one will stand as among the least surprising.
Missouri announced in a press release Friday afternoon that defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has decided to forego his final season of collegiate eligibility and make himself available for the 2013 NFL draft.
“This has been my dream ever since I was a little kid,” said Richardson. “It’s still not easy leaving Mizzou like this, but I know I’m ready. I really appreciate all of the support I got here at Mizzou, and I know that they will help me and my family with this next step. I’ll always be a Tiger.”
Originally a Mizzou-then-USC verbal commitment, Richardson flipped back to the Tigers in December of 2010 following two years at the JUCO level as he got his academic house in order. Finally cleared by the NCAA in August of 2011, Richardson played 24 games the past two seasons, including starting all 11 games in which he played this season.
The one game he neither started nor played in was due to an academically-related suspension.
All told, Richardson was credited 18.5 tackles for loss and six sacks during his brief two years in Columbia.
“I’ve always said that when guys have opportunities like these, if they’re ready to go, then they should go,” said Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel. “I have no doubt that Sheldon is ready to play in the NFL, and while we’d love to have him for another year, the important thing is that this is the right decision. It will be fun watching him play on Sundays.”
Based purely on talent, Richardson, who may be more well-known for his comments off the field than his play on it, is as near a lock for a first-round pick as one can get.
In the midst of reports that he had a physical altercation with one of his Tennessee players during summer camp this year, Butch Jones labeled the speculation “absolutely ridiculous.”
Apparently, his bosses agree with the head coach.
At a board meeting Thursday, UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek stated that he and athletic director Dave Hart had done their “due diligence” in investigating the accusations that Jones and senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder were involved in some type of physical skirmish during practice this past August. The end result of interviews with Jones, coaches and players was the conclusion that there was nothing to the reports and message-board rumors.
“There’s been a lot of rumor and misinformation on social media and message boards about an alleged incident during football practice,” Cheek said according to GoVols247.com‘s Wes Rucker. “It’s not our practice to respond to rumors, but I thought it was important to let you know that we’ve done our due diligence and Dave Hart and I are very confident there was no inappropriate conduct with any players or coaches.”
Shortly after Cheek spoke at the board meeting, Crowder took to Twitter with a series of missives that speaks around the issue.
Michigan played without its leading rusher in Week 5. The Wolverines are hoping there won’t be a repeat in Week 6.
De'Veon Smith sustained a lower-leg injury in the Week 4 win over BYU and didn’t travel with the team for last Saturday’s win over Maryland. Smith has been practicing with his teammates throughout the first few days of this week, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is guardedly optimistic that the running back will be available for what’s turned into a huge Big Ten matchup with Northwestern Saturday in the Big House.
“He’s practicing and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s going to stay good and be ready to play,” Harbaugh said during a radio appearance Thursday morning. “But we’ll (keep) looking at that every day.”
Despite essentially missing a game and a half, Smith currently leads the Wolverines with 331 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He’s added four receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield the first four games.
Should Smith be unable to go again, the Wolverines have three other backs with at least 100 yards on the ground: Ty Isaac (187, 7.2 yards per carry), Drake Johnson (125, 4.2 ypc) and Derrick Green (100, 3.3 ypc).
In addition to Smith, Harbaugh is hopeful Channing Stribling will be available this weekend as well. The starting cornerback didn’t play against the Cougars because of injury