Former Tennessee assistant coach Will Friend was hired at Mississippi State on Friday.
Friend served as the Vols’ offensive line coach from 2018-20.
Will Friend, a veteran SEC coach and heralded recruiter, has been hired to Mississippi State’s football staff at a position to be named later, head coach Zach Arnett announced Friday.
Friend is a native of Philadelphia, Mississippi, who has been considered a top 20 percent graded offensive line coach in the country over the last 15 years according to football analytics website College Football Matrix.
“We’re excited to welcome Will Friend back to his home state,” Arnett said. “Will is an outstanding coach with a proven record of recruiting and developing players on the offensive side of the ball in the toughest conference in the sport. He knows the SEC inside and out from being a player and a coach and will be another great addition to our staff.”
Friend spent the last two seasons at Auburn as offensive line coach. Prior to that, he served as Tennessee’s offensive line coach from 2018-20. He was also offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Colorado State (2015-2017) and offensive line coach at Georgia (2011-14).
“My family and I couldn’t be more excited to join the Mississippi State family,” Friend said. “I want to thank coach Arnett for this incredible opportunity. The state of Mississippi is home for me, and the talent it produces is second to none. I can’t wait to develop relationships with our players and get right to work.”
This past season, Friend’s offensive line unit helped Auburn rank third in the SEC and 18th nationally in rushing.
While at Tennessee, Friend developed two-time All-SEC first team lineman and eventual NFL draft pick Trey Smith. In 2019, Friend’s offensive line was arguably the Volunteers’ most improved and most effective unit throughout the season. Friend’s unit featured an All-SEC First Team award winner in Smith and two SEC All-Freshman honorees in Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright. Additionally, Morris was named to the 247Sports True Freshman All-America team, and Smith – who didn’t allow a sack all year – garnered a pair of SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors.
In Friend’s first season at Tennessee, the Vols’ offense saw improvements across the board, seeing an uptick in rushing offense, passing offense, total offense and scoring offense from 2017-18.
Friend went to Tennessee after a three-year stint (2015-17) as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Colorado State. In 2017, he led an offense that ranked 11th in the nation in total offense at 492.5 yards per game. Colorado State’s 33.4 points per game in 2017 led the conference and ranked 31st in the nation.
Prior to Colorado State, Friend served as the offensive line coach at Georgia in 2011 before adding the title of running game coordinator in 2013. During his final season in Athens in 2014, Friend helped guide a Bulldogs’ offense that averaged 41.3 points per game, which ranked eighth nationally, and racked up 457.8 yards of total offense per game.
He spent the 2005-06 seasons as the offensive line coach at Gardner-Webb, before a four-year stint (2007-10) as the offensive line coach at UAB.
Overall, Friend has coached nine offensive linemen who have been selected in the NFL draft.
Friend is 1998 graduate from the University of Alabama who earned his bachelor’s degree in human performance.
He started at guard for the Crimson Tide in all four seasons and was a two-time All-SEC selection. He is a member of Alabama’s Team of the Decade for the 1990s.
Friend was a Parade Magazine All-America selection as a senior at Neshoba Central High in Philadelphia, Miss.
Friend and his wife, Carrie, have three children – Katie, Brooks and Charlie.