“Clearly, their actions have no place in our program,” coach Lane Kiffin said Monday.
Kiffin said wide receiver Nu’Keese Richardson, 18, and defensive back Mike Edwards, 18, were permanently dismissed from the team, while former starting safety Janzen Jackson, 18, will continue to be barred from team activities while Kiffin awaits more information in his case.
Richardson was the player whose recruitment first got Kiffin in trouble with the Southeastern Conference. Kiffin joked in February that Florida coach Urban Meyer cheated in trying to keep Richardson as a Gator, earning Kiffin a reprimand from the SEC.
All three players were out on bond but kept home Saturday when Tennessee traveled to play Mississippi.
Three people told police they were sitting in their parked vehicle about 2 a.m. last Thursday outside a convenience store near Tennessee’s campus when two males dressed in hooded jackets, one brandishing a handgun, approached and demanded, “Give us everything you’ve got.”
“The victims stated that they all presented their wallets to the suspects and showed them that they did not have money,” a police report said. “The victims stated that a third black male then approached and told the other two black males, ‘We’ve got to go.’”
The three players were arrested shortly afterward with companion Marie Montmarquet, 22, also a UT student. She allegedly drove their getaway Toyota Prius in which police said they found a pellet gun and hooded jackets.
The victims identified Richardson and Edwards as the men who approached their vehicle and Jackson as the one who told them to leave, the police report said.
“After extensive and thorough research of the situation ... and considering various disciplinary options, I’ve decided it’s in the best interest of our program to remove Nu’Keese and Mike,” Kiffin said in a statement. “We hold our student-athletes to an extremely high standard on and off the field. Our student athletes must be responsible members of society, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated.”
Kiffin said he hoped Richardson and Edwards “will learn from their terrible decision.”
Richardson, a highly touted recruit from Pahokee, Fla., finished his Tennessee career with six catches for 58 yards. Edwards, a native of Cleveland, played in eight games and registered five tackles.
Jackson, a Lake Charles, La., native, has started seven games this season, logging 33 tackles and a forced fumble. He was suspended for the Memphis game for undisclosed reasons, a week after he was named SEC freshman of the week for a strong performance against South Carolina.