Drew Richmond’s transition to left tackle began with simple things like eating, texting and opening doors. Sounds simple, right? Not so. Those everyday tasks were much more difficult when Richmond used his left hand instead of his right.
“I tried to do everything to get my left hand coordinated,” the redshirt freshman said following Tennessee’s spring practice on Saturday. “It was difficult.”
Slowly, Richmond made the off-field transition. Eating with his left hand was the most memorable challenge.
“It’s not that bad,” Richmond said. “You have to try it.”
Wielding a fork won’t be nearly as difficult as fending off SEC defensive ends. However, that’s exactly what Tennessee’s coaches are asking Richmond to do, as he’s been the primary first-team left tackle. He said run blocking has been the toughest aspect of the move.
“I’m just trying to condition my mind to be more consistent and finish plays and play to the standard we hold ourselves to,” Richmond said.
Richmond was noticeably humble when he spoke to the media on Saturday. A redshirt season will do that. The former highly-touted prospect expected to play last season, not sit the bench.
“It was a difficult road going from high school, being everything I was, to being here and having to redshirt,” Richmond said. “Everything happens for a reason. It taught me a lot of things. I matured as a person and as a player to develop my game… It was hard but guys stuck around me.”
Richmond mentioned running back Alvin Kamara and linebacker Curt Maggitt as some of the players who helped keep his spirits up.
“They made sure I was always okay,” Richmond said. “They made sure they stayed in my ear, giving me wisdom, making sure I stayed up. I had to embrace it. You can either get worse or you can get better with the redshirt process. It took me a minute to get there.”
There was one former player who made the biggest impact on Richmond. It was his predecessor, former Tennessee offensive tackle Kyler Kerbyson.
“Kyler is getting married and he spent time away from his wife, staying late with me, taking me home,” Richmond said. “Kyler was always there for me, helping me get my pad sets right. It was more than football. He made sure my mind was right as well.”
Kerbyson was just passing along the favor. He was mentored by former Tennessee offensive lineman Ja’wuan James, who now plays for the Miami Dolphins.
“I wanted to mentor him because of the great potential I saw in him,” Kerbyson told SEC Country. “I also felt as if it was my responsibility since I was first mentored by Ja’Wuan.”
Just because Kerbyson’s eligibility is up doesn’t mean it’s time to shelve his mentoring role. Shortly after his pro day workout for NFL scouts at Tennessee’s athletic complex on Wednesday, Richmond cornered Kerbyson for some more pointers, according to senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
“He continues to improve everyday,” Dobbs said of Richmond. “I’ve really liked his mentality. He’s looking for various ways to get better… Obviously he has some things to work on, but I like how he’s coming along and he’s getting better everyday.”
Kerbyson seems quite confident he hasn’t been wasting his time working with Richmond, whose upside is widely regarded.
“His upside is his freaky athleticism,” Kerbyson said. “He is able to get himself out of bad situations with the way he can move. He just needs to be confident in himself and not let his head tie up his feet.”
Richmond said his daily battle is all about consistency. That may be a bit more challenging than eating a sandwich left-handed.
“It’s just your coordination,” he said. “You have to learn how to use different muscles you haven’t used before. You do everything with your right hand, now you’ve got to go to your left.”