Now that Walt Wells finally has his dream job, the goal for Tennessee’s new offensive line coach is to develop and coach his position players up well enough that he can keep the job for the foreseeable future.
After serving as an offensive quality control assistant on last year’s team, Wells earned a promotion, much like the team’s new offensive coordinator Larry Scott, and now gets a chance to run the offensive line as he sees fit for head coach Butch Jones. With a roster full of talented and experienced offensive linemen, Wells is well aware of the expectations heading into spring football.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be here and I know it’s more than a dream, it’s reality now and I know what the reality is – we need results,” Wells said Tuesday during the team’s media availability for select assistant coaches. “That’s my goal just as much as anybody in this building.”
With his work as a QC assistant last season, Wells has the advantage of familiarity with both Tennessee’s scheme and players heading into his first spring practice as an on-the-field coach for the Vols. After helping former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord with scheming and game planning last season, Wells development skills will now be put to the test.
Heading into the spring, Wells will be tasked with further developing several talented players on Tennessee’s roster. Jashon Robertson, Drew Richmond, Brett Kendrick, Coleman Thomas, Venzell Boulware, Chance Hall, Jack Jones, and Marcus Tatum have all seen the field for the Vols and will be seeing additional competition from incoming recruits Trey Smith and Riley Locklear, as well as redshirt freshmen Nathan Niehaus and Ryan Johnson.
“From everything I’ve seen, last spring and fall, and so far this winter, they work extremely hard,” Wells said of his unit heading into the spring. “They seem to get along well, we need to gel more as a unit and come together more, in my opinion, and I think they’d tell you that, too. They need to learn to rely on one another more. They’ve been tested and they’ve been through some of the battles and they know what they are up against and they just have to continue to fight to push through that wall.”
Additional good news for the Vols comes from the current health status of massive right tackle Chance Hall. Tennessee’s offensive line has performed at its highest levels in recent seasons when Hall has been in the lineup. Unfortunately for Tennessee, that has not occurred very often, but according to Wells, Hall is scheduled to compete this spring.
“Chance has never had just a healthy offseason where he can work out, run, develop his body and get to where he needs to be,” Wells said. “Looking forward to seeing how he progresses when we get out there.
“The plan is for him to be out there. Chance has told me he’s good (for spring practice).”
If the decision to promote Wells to offensive line coach works out well for Tennessee this season, don’t be surprised to see the unit become the strength of the offense this season, as the team is set to work in a new starting quarterback and elevating John Kelly into the feature role at running back for the first time heading into a season.
If the offensive line on Rocky Top finally lives up to its potential for an entire season in 2017, Wells likely won’t have to worry about the status of his dream job for years to come.
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