Last offseason, Jeremy Pruitt brought one standout Tennessee player back to Knoxville to coach for the Vols. This offseason, another former Vol star is back “home” in the orange and white.
It was reported on Tuesday evening that Texas A&M co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Jay Graham would be hired to be the Vols’ next running backs coach. Graham played running back for Tennessee from 1993-96, was a graduate assistant at UT in 2005, and coached running backs once before for the Vols in 2012.
While Tennessee has yet to officially announce his hire, Graham himself made it official late Wednesday night.
Graham posted to his personal Twitter account that he is “happy to be HOME” and that he’s “ready to get to work” as the Vols’ new running backs coach. He also added the hashtag #ReturnofRBU.
— Jay Graham (@CoachjayhGraham) January 30, 2020
The veteran position coach has been the running backs coach at Chattanooga, San Diego, UT-Martin, Miami (Ohio), South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida State, and Texas A&M in his career. He’s also helped with special teams at Florida State and had a co-offensive coordinator title at Texas A&M.
Since taking a Power Five job at South Carolina in 2009, Graham has coached five different running backs to 1,000-yard seasons, and three different running backs have broken school records under his tutelage (Dalvin Cook, Trayveon Williams, and Cam Akers). Graham could be a perfect fit for Tennessee as their running backs coach based on his track record.
In his first year in College Station in 2018, Graham helped mold Trayveon Williams into a record-breaking back. Williams broke A&M’s single-season rushing yard mark (1,760) and single-season all-purpose yardage mark (2,038). Williams earned All-SEC honors for his performance.
This past season, Texas A&M was dealt a blow when starting running back Jashaun Corbin suffered a season-ending injury early in the year. Backup Isaiah Spiller still had a strong freshman campaign, however, totaling 946 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 174 carries. He also caught 29 passes for 203 yards, giving him over 1,100 all-purpose yards.
At Florida State from 2013-17, Graham coached standout backs such as Dalvin Cook, Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr., Karlos Williams, and Cam Akers. Cook was a First Team All-American and finished his FSU career holding the single season mark for rushing yards (1,765) and all-purpose yards (2,253) in 2016. His 4,464 career rushing yards are also a school record. Akers broke Cook’s freshman record for most rushing yards in a season.
At South Carolina, Graham coached Marcus Lattimore to consecutive 1,000-all-purpose-yard seasons and was part of the Gamecocks’ 2011 squad that won 11 games for the first time in program history.
In Graham’s one season as Tennessee’s running backs coach in 2012, he helped the Vols’ rushing attack transform radically from 2011 to 2012. Tennessee averaged just 90.1 rushing yards per game and scored 11 rushing touchdowns in 2011. In 2012, the Vols averaged 160.3 rushing yards and scored 18 rushing touchdowns, with Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane combining for 1,366 yards on the ground.
As a player for the Vols, Graham was an All-SEC performer who has his name scattered throughout UT’s record books. His 11 games of 100-plus rushing yards in 1995 are the most in a single season in school history, and his 14 career games of 100-plus rushing yards are the second-most in a Tennessee career. Graham’s 2,609 career rushing yards are the eighth-most in school history, and his 25 career rushing touchdowns are tied for the 10th-most in program history. He also has the fifth-most carries in a UT career with 540 in his career from 1993-96.
Last offseason, former Vol quarterback and national champion Tee Martin returned “home” to Tennessee as the Vols’ assistant head coach/passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach. Martin had never coached at Tennessee before, whereas this will be Graham’s third time coming back to Knoxville since his playing days ended.
Graham has experience working with three coaches on Tennessee’s current staff. He worked under offensive coordinator Jim Chaney during Chaney’s first run as UT’s offensive coordinator back in 2012, and current defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley was also on Tennessee’s staff in 2012. Graham and Jeremy Pruitt were both on the same Florida State staff in 2013.