One play between Antonio "Tiny" Richardson and Jadeveon Clowney last season was the talk surrounding Tennessee at SEC Media Days. Trailing 38-35 late in the fourth quarter against South Carolina, the Vols were well within field goal range at the 19-yard line and were driving for a go ahead score. Marlin Lane had just sliced through the defense for a 16-yard run, quarterback Tyler Bray was pushing 400 yards passing with four touchdowns and the momentum was pushing toward UT's first big win.
Then, defensive end Clowney— the consensus No. 1 overall selection in next year's NFL draft—juked past offensive tackle Richardson. The Vols' massive tackle gave up Bray's blind side for the first time all season.
He forced a fumble. The Gamecocks recovered. Game over.
"No lie, I watch that film at least once a week," Richardson said. "I'm not saying that because I'm in front of you guys."
Senior right tackle Ja'Wuan James was also a part of the Vols' contingent at the annual event in Hoover, Ala. that hands out 1,200- plus credentials. He took Tiny's talk one step further.
"He thinks about it every day," James said. "Me and him end up watching that film over and over. Any time we're working out, he's just working out to let nothing like that ever happen again."
As reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Clowney came in confident Tuesday and stirred the pot with Richardson. He gave the second-team All-SEC tackle some credit—one of two players Clowney claimed could block him—but fired a jab in the process.
"(Richardson) is the best at holding and getting away with it," he said. "But he does a good job at it, and if you don't get called for it, it's not a holding call, so I respect that 100 percent. He did pretty good against me."
UT's rising junior admitted, like so many linemen do, that the best guys do it, too.
"I think that some of the best offensive linemen can hold and get away with it," Richardson said. "I take it as a compliment.
"But sometimes you have to keep crying and move on."
Richardson is coming off a breakout year. He's projected by ESPN's Todd McShay as the 16th-best prospect in the 2014 NFL draft for a reason.
His line gave up seven sacks all season, second best in the NCAA. Clowney's strip-sack was the lone blemish on an otherwise near-perfect season up front.
Having a night to kick around Clowney's comments in his head, Richardson wasn't shy on firing back his own light-hearted jab at the Gamecocks pass rusher Wednesday during the Vols' session. He put his own asterisk beside Clowney's perfect 99 rating in NCAA Football 14, the newest EA Sports video game.
"I heard he had a 99. He's a good player but I don't know about a 99," he said.
"Give that young man a 94."
James had his own personal invitation to Clowney—who won the ESPYs 'Best Play' award Wednesday night for his ground-shattering hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith.
"I never get to go against him. He never came to my side in two years," he said. "I'm waiting for him to come over and play with me."
At his first SEC Media Days, Vols head coach Butch Jones echoed that Richardson uses the fateful play that decided Tennessee- South Carolina in 2012 as daily motivation.
"Tiny talks about that play all the time," Jones said. "When you want to be the best, you have to think about one or two plays that made a difference.
"One bad play can be the difference between winning and losing. So we talk about that all the time, and I think that's added to his overall development as a football player."
Clowney and the Gamecocks visit Neyland Stadium on Sept. 28.