ATHENS, Ga. -- When his playing days at Alabama were nearly done, offensive lineman Will Friend was called into the office of his position coach, Neil Callaway.
“Well, what are you going to do (now)?” Callaway asked, according to Friend.
“I don’t know,” Friend answered.
“Well, you aren’t going to be playing football,” Callaway responded.
But Callaway encouraged him to get into coaching, and Friend embarked on a career that brought him nearly full-circle with Callaway: Tuesday was Friend’s first day as Georgia’s offensive line coach, a job formerly held by Callaway, now head coach at UAB, where Friend worked the past four years.
This isn’t Friend’s first go-around in Athens. He was a graduate assistant for the Bulldogs from 2003-04. His first child, Katie, was born in Athens.
But this time around, his office is bigger. Friend remembered that he shared an office with several other graduate assistants.
“First one in there got a chair for the day,” he recalled with a smile Tuesday.
Friend, who turned 36 Monday, said he basically knew he had the job last Friday. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo had reached out to Friend soon after offensive line coach Stacy Searels announced he was leaving after four years for the same job Texas.
“I told (Bobo) I’d be in Athens whenever he needed me,” Friend said.
Friend was due to meet with Georgia’s returning offensive linemen later Tuesday. He said he hasn’t had time yet to evaluate his new players, so he didn’t have any insight about how he might use them.
He has spoken with members of Georgia’s recruiting class, which includes six offensive linemen.
Friend said he told those incoming Bulldogs, “You guys don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but we both picked Georgia.”
Friend also said his coaching techniques and philosophy shouldn’t differ much from Searels.
Georgia’s veteran offensive line performed below expectations last season. But the unit’s new coach said everyone was “starting from scratch” with him.
“I don’t want to get caught up too much in 2010. It’s done,” Friend said. “This is 2011, and the things that are going on now at Georgia are extremely exciting: new facilities, recruiting class, guys coming back.”