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Tennessee Football: Alec Abeln was a “natural” as Vols’ new TE coach

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Alec Abeln was named to Tennessee’s coaching staff earlier this month. The Vols saw that coming weeks ago.

Tennessee’s newest assistant coach will be in charge of tight ends moving forward. He should be comfortable there. The Missouri native worked with UT’s tight ends throughout bowl practice. Now, Abeln will have the title as he’ll replace Alex Golesh, who was Tennessee’s tight ends coach and offensive coordinator before being named as the head coach at South Florida in January.

Tennessee’s most experienced tight end, Jacob Warren, said the move was natural given Abeln’s history with the team.

“Just knowing him and understanding that he’s going to work hard to perfect every aspect of his coaching,” Warren said when asked what he likes about the hire. “…I’m happy to have someone that I know and that I trust in that position to continue to grow through to this next season.”

Warren said he and his fellow Vols wondered if Abeln was essentially auditioning for the open position as Tennessee prepared for Clemson in the Orange Bowl in Miami last month.

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“He was really going out there and trying his best and learning, competing the same way (the players were),” Warren said. 

Abeln, 27, is barely older than Warren, who is 23-years-old. The two could practically be best bros. Instead, they’ll keep it friendly in a coach-player relationship. Warren said Abeln doesn’t fit the mold of a younger coach. He isn’t a rah-rah, high-energy guy unless he needs to be.

“I think a lot of people associate the youth with big energy, really, really excited running around,” Warren said, “He can get that way, but I think he’s more similar to me, more intellectual. Whenever we’re playing the game, whenever we’re out there, he’s sitting there analyzing every little detail of different things and can effectively communicate. When you do something wrong or when you do something right. He’s very good about presenting information to you that is easy to accept. 

“As a man with ego and pride, he’s never going to come after you and be demeaning or aggressive, but he’s also going to tell you how it is right and be straight up and be honest and be truthful. We’ve all pretty quickly learned to respect that about him, the way he approaches coaching, correcting and encouraging.”

Despite their frantic pace of play, Tennessee’s coaching staff is largely considered a pretty calm bunch from the top, with head coach Josh Heupel, to most every coach on the staff. That doesn’t mean they aren’t motivated.

“Everybody’s there to work, but everybody’s there to get better and I feel like this staff kind of has a chip on its shoulder and always has something to prove,” Warren said of the quiet motivation that lies underneath. “That’s kind of what motivates them to keep going.”

It motivated Abeln as well, enough to be named to his first full-time coaching position.

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