In a move that came as a surprise to absolutely no one, Vols junior offensive tackle Antonio Richardson announced on Friday evening that he will forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Tennessee announced Richardson’s decision in a press release.
Offensive tackle Antonio Richardson will declare for the NFL Draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility at the University of Tennessee.
“We appreciate Antonio’s efforts and contributions to the University of Tennessee Football,” said head coach Butch Jones. “He will always be a Vol For Life and we wish him all the best as he looks to further his career in the National Football League.”
The Nashville native was an All-SEC second-team selection by the Associated Press in 2012. In 2013, he was an SEC preseason first-team honoree. He was also named to the watch lists for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies.
“After praying and talking it over with my family and coaches, I believe that now is the right time to make a statement about my future,” said Richardson. “I have truly loved every moment of being a Tennessee Volunteer and will always be a Vol For Life. As much as I have enjoyed my time at Tennessee, I have long dreamed of playing in the NFL and taking care of my family. After careful consideration, I have decided to forego my senior year and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
“I am grateful to all of my Tennessee coaches and everyone in the football program who made my life easier, from trainers to tutors to our fans, who are the best in the country. I am ready for the next level and look forward to what I know will be an exciting challenge.”
Richardson — despite not having as good of a season as he did in 2012 — is still very likely going to be a first round draft pick.
Bleacher Report’s lead draft writer, Matt Miller, currently has Richardson being drafted with the 12th overall selection in his latest mock draft.
With Richardson officially moving on, it means the Vols have quite a few starts to replace on their veteran offensive line, as they’re losing all of their starters.
#Vols have to replace 177 starts on its offensive line next season.
— Patrick Brown (@patrickbrownTFP) December 6, 2013
While this seems like a recipe for disaster – and it is by all means — it’s not necessarily something the Vols won’t be able to overcome.
Tennessee’s offensive line this year appeared to regress, which shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when you consider they were thrown into a completely new offensive scheme.
The Vols won’t be able to replace the experience they’re losing, but they will be playing guys that will have two years of learning Mike Bajakian’s offensive scheme, under their belts.
There’s going to be some head-scratching moments next season. There’s going to be moments where the Vols’ inexperience shines through, but I don’t think it’ll be nearly as bad as you think.
Don Mahoney has a good track record as a offensive line coach. It may not have appeared that way this season, but switching schemes isn’t necessarily an easy thing for upperclassmen to do.
The Vols signed three offensive lineman in the 2013 class and they have four committed to the 2014 class. They’ll be just fine.