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Kiffin looks to former Florida recruits for help

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin knows to have success against Florida, he's first got to recruit like Gators coach Urban Meyer.

Taking a few of his recruits helps, too, though it didn't make Meyer very happy.

Kiffin plucked two prospects from Meyer's class of 2009 commitments - Marsalis Teague, Paris, Tenn.; Nu'Keese Richardson, Pahokee, Fla.

"The way we recruit, we get real close with these guys, so it just frustrates you," Meyer said. "But that happens. That happens all across the country, and it's just the cost of doing business."

Teague, a wide receiver, and Richardson, a punt return specialist, now have a chance to help the Volunteers (1-1) grab an unlikely win Saturday against the No. 1 Gators (2-0) on the field where the two freshmen nearly made their home.

"We know we're going to get there," Kiffin said. "We signed some fast guys this year in this class that are just pups. We've got to continue to sign more."

So far, Florida's loss has been Tennessee's gain.

Teague has started games and had 86 yards, six catches and a touchdown against Western Kentucky. Richardson is averaging 9 yards per punt return with a season-long 19 yarder against Western Kentucky.

Their early success has come at home in friendly Neyland Stadium, though. The Swamp brings a new set of challenges, said junior safety Eric Berry, who started as a freshman at Florida two years ago.

Berry picked off a Tim Tebow pass and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. What he remembers more is getting burned on a Florida touchdown, one of many in that 59-20 loss.

"It can affect you coming from a freshman standpoint," he said. "Once you mess up on a play or if something happens, you've got to learn how to keep moving and let that play go because the fans are going to keep messing with you about it."

The freshmen, who are now roommates, have been talking about what to expect when they travel to the Swamp. Teague knows he has to be serious about preparing for the game and staying focused, but he's also enjoying joking with Richardson.

"I mess with him," Teague said. "I'm like, 'It's worse on you because you're actually from Florida and you were committed there a long time. I jumped on late and kind of backed off, and I'm from Tennessee. Most people won't fault me too much, but they're going to get at you."'

Richardson also knows what kind of welcome he's in for from Gator fans.

"Not a nice one, I know that," he said. "I know that the fans and the people are going to be showing their welcome, but it won't be a nice greeting."

Both Kiffin and Meyer coveted Teague and Richardson for their speed. Meyer has led Florida to two national championships thanks to a roster stocked deep with fast players, and Kiffin wants to emulate that.

"You see it show up," Kiffin said. "Instead of going for 8 yards, because he's recruited for so much speed the play goes for 80. Speed is a big-time factor and something that we lack. We've got to recruit more speed."

Teague and Richardson aren't the Vols only young speedsters. Kiffin's first signing class also features fast players like running backs Bryce Brown and David Oku and defensive back Janzen Jackson.

But those players can't turn around a programe overnight.

Kiffin praises his freshman class but wants next year's class to be better and faster. He expects by his third year, the Vols will have the identity he's seeking.

But that's not going to help him Saturday against a Gators team that's had this game circled on their schedule since Kiffin said he would sing "Rocky Top" all night long after beating Florida.

"I'd love for it to be this year," Kiffin said. I'd love for us to be great this year and win a ton of games, but I don't know that that's going to happen."