Tennessee offensive lineman Antonio "Tiny" Richardson decided to forgo his final year of college eligibility to enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
An All-Southeastern Conference second-team selection in 2012, Richardson started 24 games the past two seasons at left tackle for the Volunteers. He is projected as the No. 6 offensive tackle prospect eligible for the 2014 draft by NFLDraftScout.com.
"I have truly loved every moment of being a Tennessee Volunteer and will always be a Vol for life," Richardson said in a statement on Friday. "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 forgo 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."
The 6-foot-6, 327-pound Richardson anchored a Tennessee line that gave up 23 sacks the past two years, which is the fourth fewest in FBS at 0.67 per game.
"We appreciate Antonio's efforts and contributions to the University of Tennessee football," Vols coach Butch Jones said. "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."
NFLDraftScout.com analyst Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) wrote:
"Richardson passes the eye test with a naturally wide base, broad shoulders, vines for arms and a wingspan to engulf defenders. Richardson sets up effortlessly off the snap with a terrific kick-slide and shuffle to mirror rushers, showing natural bend and flexible joints. He looks comfortable in space and at the second level, displaying enough athleticism to get outside and bury defenders on the perimeter.
"While Richardson has impressive natural tools, he is far from a polished player and needs to refine his game in several areas before he's ready for NFL success. He has a bad habit of overextending due to his aggressive, uncontrolled nature and needs time and pro coaching to help develop his discipline and patience.
"Richardson needs to do a better job locking on and driving his man out of the play as he is too often content hand fighting and simply getting in the way. Overall, timing, angles and hand use aren't strengths right now.
"Nonetheless, he has the qualities that cannot be taught and the Tennessee coaches speak highly of him and the way he carries himself on and off the field. If Richardson isn't a first round pick in May, he shouldn't last too much longer."
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