ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
In this March 2018 file photo, offensive Line coach Will Friend is shown during spring practice on Haslam Field in Knoxville, Tenn. (Photo: Kyle Zedaker/Tennessee Athletics)

Updated at 7:20 p.m. on Tuesday, August 7, 2018.

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee offensive line coach Will Friend has quickly developed a reputation for being among the most intense of the Volunteers' coaches when it comes to demanding excellence in practice.

Veterans and newcomers alike have been on the receiving end of pointed critiques from Friend during open portions of the first four preseason practices.

some text
Tennessee offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson receives some help cooling off during Tennessee's open practice at Neyland Stadium on Aug. 5, 2018.

"They say sometimes you take the personality of your coach, so it's good that he is on us like that," redshirt junior offensive lineman Drew Richmond said. "Coach Friend wants us to have every detail hammered out. He is very detailed orientated."

Friend spent the past three seasons as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Colorado State. Early in Tuesday's practice, Friend seemed relatively subdued in his coaching compared to previous practices. The former Alabama offensive lineman was a college roommate of head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Offensive coordinator Tyson Helton said last week that Friend will offer input on Tennessee's play-calling. For now his top task is turning around the fortunes of an offensive line that struggled in 2017 before the coaching transition.

"I'll handle the brunt of the play-calling, obviously," Helton said. "But Coach Friend and I have a great relationship. He's been an offensive coordinator and does a great job."

Ballhawks

The defenses Pruitt coordinated at Alabama in 2016 and 2017 both led the Southeastern Conference in number of interceptions, and given the emphasis Pruitt places on the skill during Tennessee's practices, it's not hard to see why.

Pruitt's hands-on coaching of the secondary entails more than just technique work and schematic training. The defensive backs spend multiple periods early in practice tracking airborne footballs with an emphasis on leaping to make an interception.

The drills have given newcomers in the secondary such as freshmen Alontae Taylor, Brandon Davis, Trevon Flowers, Bryce Thompson and junior college transfer Kenneth George Jr. the chance to display their athletic ability in the early competition for playing time in the secondary.

"To me, the first thing is that you've got to be able to play man-to-man and you've got to be able to play the ball, because there's lots of balls out on the perimeter," Pruitt said. "You've got to be a good tackler and then you've got to talk about intangibles: Are you a smart football player? Do you know how to use your help? I think those are the most important things."

Baribeau visits

Tennessee received a visit Monday from Rachel Baribeau, a motivational speaker and developer of a nonprofit called "Changing the Narrative." Baribeau talks to football teams around the country about treating women with respect, developing an identity outside of the game and changing negative narratives attached to them as football players.

After Baribeau's talk with the Vols, photos from the "Changing the Narrative" Twitter account showed players lined up to meet and talk with her. Media were not allowed in the meeting.

"Many of these guys are dying for the world to know they are more than just football players," the "Changing the Narrative" account posted. "They are Kings who are going to use their platform to change the world around them!"

Baribeau's visit came as questions about Ohio State coach Urban Meyer's handling of an assistant coach accused of domestic violence dominates the sport's national headlines. At Tennessee, Pruitt dismissed sophomore linebacker Ryan Thaxton from the team in July after Thaxton was charged with domestic abuse.

"We're not going to condone it," Pruitt said at SEC Media Days. "We're not going to tolerate it."

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidWCobb and on Facebook at facebook.com/volsupdate.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT