New Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend’s office at the newly expanded Butts-Mehre building is quite a step up from his previous digs when he was a Georgia graduate assistant in 2003-04.
“There were three or four of us in there I think,” Friend said Tuesday on his first day on the job back in Athens. “We had to fight for chairs. If you got in early, you got a chair for the day.”
Georgia – offensive coordinator Mike Bobo specifically – called Friend about possibly returning to Athens after Stacy Searels left to become offensive line coach at Texas.
“I told him I would be in Athens whenever he needed me,” said Friend, who spent Tuesday signing paperwork and planned to meet with the Bulldogs’ returning offensive lineman.
Friend served as offensive line coach for former Georgia offensive coordinator and line coach Neil Callaway the past four seasons at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Friend was told he would get the job on Friday and was officially hired Monday on his 36th birthday.
“When I was here the first time, I wanted to come back here,” Friend said. “When that opportunity came, I was ready to go.”
Friend will work with a Georgia offensive line that returns senior starters Ben Jones, Cordy Glenn and Trinton Sturdivant, as well as Kenarious Gates, who started three games as a freshman.
“I think it can be a very good group,” said Friend, a Mississippi native and two-time All-SEC offensive lineman at Alabama who played for the Crimson Tide from 1994-97.
As a graduate assistant after leaving a job at Central High in Tuscaloosa, Ala, Friend shared an apartment his first year on the east side of Athens with Zach Shay, now defensive coordinator at Northern Colorado.
“I think Will is an excellent coach,” Shay said. “He played for some great offensive line coaches at the University of Alabama. Coach Callaway is his mentor. Obviously, when coach Callaway was there, during that time when we were there, Georgia was very successful. I think a lot of the things that Will taught are from what he learned when he was at Alabama and from coach Callaway.”
Friend played for Callaway for a season, served as a graduate assistant under him at both Alabama and Georgia and spent the past four years working for him at UAB after a stint at Gardner-Webb.
“Coach Callaway had a huge influence,” Friend said.
“He’ll relate good to the kids,” Callaway said. “He’s a guy that believes in doing things the right way, fundamentally and scheme-wise. He’s very knowledgeable and a very good teacher of the offensive line.”
UAB has had an All-Conference USA first-team selection each of the past two seasons: junior tackle Matt McCants in 2010 and center Jake Seitz in 2009.
Friend’s first child, 6-year-old Katie, was born in Athens when he was a graduate assistant here.
“I told her when we got the job, ‘You’re getting to go back home,’ ” he said.