Drew Richmond is learning how to forget. When your job is keeping 300-pound men from powering past you for a couple of hours each day, the task can be harder than one may think.
The redshirt freshman offensive lineman exploded onto the scene before ever walking onto Haslam Field in a Tennessee jersey after flipping his commitment from Ole Miss to the Vols last February. Richmond's name was plastered across national headlines after signing with Butch Jones' program and expectations were instantly thrust on the former Scout five-star recruit.
As Tennessee mixed and matched its offensive line throughout the spring and fall camp to determine the best starting five, Richmond didn't find himself being a major player in the rotation as he endured a developmental year behind experienced tackles. This season, though, the Memphis native is expected to compete for the starting left tackle job, protecting the quarterback's blind side in an SEC littered with future NFL defensive end talent.
Going up against that same talent in practice, while helping physically, sometimes hindered Richmond's progress as he sulked on not making the right decision. This spring, he's learned to push the mistakes out of his mind and move to the next play, adopting the "snap and clear" mantra touted by Jones and the rest of the staff.
"I'm really proud of Drew because he's done a better job at snapping and clearing when the play's over as opposed to the fall," offensive line coach Don Mahoney told InsideTennessee. "If something went wrong, it bothered him for two plays. He's done a better job of just letting it go and moving on. He does some processing thinking about it because it's important to him, and he wants to be right. He wants to play well and all those things, but he's got to let go faster, and he's done that, so that's been encouraging. He's been able to play more physical in doing so."
Mistakes happen. That's true about any occupation, from football player to firefighter. How you handle those mistakes and process them into learning experiences grows experience and talent — a lesson Richmond is beginning to learn after every dwindling misstep. The snap and clear mentality isn't just a platitude used in press conferences. It's also a real skill the coaches want their players to embrace.
"I've been very pleased with him, and I think it's the maturity of him understanding snap and clear," Butch Jones said. "If you make a mistake, make a mistake going a million miles an hour and then play the next play and don't let that one snap beat you. Drew has done a much better job with that."
As he auditions for the left tackle position in his first spring camp with the team, Richmond finally figured out that sometimes forgetting your mistakes is the best thing to keep them from hurting you down the road. His former mentor at tackle, Kyler Kerbyson, understands that idea and has taken a keen interest in Richmond's development himself. As the former starting left tackle prepares for the NFL draft, he's attended a handful of Tennessee's spring practices and watched film of the offensive line with Mahoney.
Kerbyson's advice to the rising redshirt sophomore hinges on accepting the pressure of the left tackle position without allowing it to be overwhelming. If anyone knows that is easier said than done, it's Kerbyson.
"Drew is really stepping up. He's a guy who hasn't played a lot and they're putting a lot of pressure on him right now," Kerbyson said. "They have him as the (starting left tackle) and they're saying go out and prove yourself. It depends on how he works during this spring and this upcoming summer as to where he's going to be. Is he going to stress out and not be able to perform because they're throwing it on his shoulders or is he going to rise to the occasion? That's what they're looking for. They're expecting big things out of Drew and I am too, because I think he can be a really good player."
Learn more about the tackle's transition by watching the video of Richmond below: