KNOXVILLE – In their respective roles as assistant coaches, Brian Niedermeyer and Will Friend represent the broad scope of Tennessee football’s personnel department.
The Vols are dependent on attracting the best talent and Niedermeyer was named national recruiter of the year in February by 247Sports and ESPN. The Vols received two commitments in the past week, including BJ Ojulari, a four-star defensive end from Marietta, Ga.
UT coach Jeremy Pruitt said jokingly earlier this week that the 30-year-old Niedermeyer has a singular advantage.
“He’s not married, so what else does he have to do,” Pruitt said. “It’s not like he’s got a wife to go home to or any kids to go home to, so what does he do? He recruits. He recruits all the time.”
Niedermeyer, who coaches Tennessee’s tight ends, believes that his age serves him in terms of relatability as well. Plus, his experience – he’s already either lived or worked in seven different states – belies his youth.
“More than anything, it’s about building relationships and identifying with people,” he said on Thursday. “I’ve lived in so many different places, it’s helped out.”
After the personnel has arrived, the business becomes about placement and development. As offensive line coach, Friend is burdened with restoration at present. Lineman Marcus Tatum spoke on Wednesday about the memory of last season’s struggles as if it’s a heavy yoke that all the linemen are bearing.
“A lot of the negativity around this school and the football program has been on us and it’s time to change it,” Tatum said.
Friend wasn’t aware of what Tatum had said. But he can relate to what he and the other linemen might be feeling.
“The truth of the matter is that these guys haven’t had a lot of success,” Friend said. “So I think that, like in anything else, confidence is big part of what you’re trying to do to be successful.”
Friend digressed a bit more about being stronger and a year older as it related to the process. Then he pivoted to a thought that was rather blunt and frankly more relevant to the work involved.
“It’s time for us to get this program turned around and going in the right direction,” he said. “The only way for them to gain confidence is to do it, do it right and do it well. Anything else is just going to be talking about it.”
With that, Friend sounded like he could’ve been huddled in the same office cubicle with Niedermeyer, who doesn’t spend any time considering his stature as a recruiter.
“I just show up for work every day,” he said.
He’s shepherding his own position group while expanding his coaching profile.
“A lot of people don’t appreciate how good a coach that he is,” Pruitt said. “He could coach any side of the ball. What he always was for us (at Alabama) was a defensive (graduate assistant). But he’s a very intelligent guy and it really comes easy to him.”
Friend, meanwhile, has been sharing his workload with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who has been loud and demonstrative at times in coaching the linemen. Friend has appreciated the resulting optics.
“Just another set of eyes,” he said.
And they all saw some welcome improvement recently.
“For the first time this week, there were a couple days in the team-run period where we were really playing physical and playing on the other side of the ball a lot,” Friend said. “That was pleasing to see. We’re just trying to keep it going.”
Notebook: Tennessee has added quarterback Kasim Hall, a transfer from Maryland who will sit out the 2019 season and have two seasons of eligibility left.
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Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri who covered University of Tennessee athletics for the Knoxville News Sentinel from 1988-2019. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org