On Wednesday night, Jay Graham said he was “happy to be home” at Tennessee. On Thursday, Tennessee officially announced the hiring of Graham as UT’s next running backs coach.
Tennessee put out a release on Thursday officially welcoming in former Vol running back Jay Graham as the Vols’ running backs coach. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt worked with Graham at Florida State in 2013, and the Vols’ head coach is thrilled to welcome Graham back to Knoxville.
“I’m excited to welcome Jay Graham back to Tennessee,” Pruitt said. “He is one of the best assistant coaches in the country, and his track record for developing running backs speaks for itself, as you can see several of the young men he has coached playing on Sundays. He’s the total package as a coach with his experience playing in the NFL and his years coaching in the SEC and ACC. He has tremendous work ethic and an impressive ability to connect with young people. I was impressed by Jay from the start of our time working together and winning a national championship in 2013.
“He’s one of the best running backs ever to play at Tennessee, which I saw firsthand in the mid-90s. I’m thrilled to be working alongside him again and bringing him back to Rocky Top.”
Per info obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel, Graham has signed a two-year contract with Tennessee that’s worth $575,000 annually. That’s a slight raise from the $550,000 Graham made this past season with Texas A&M.
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). Since 2013, six running backs who have been coached by Graham have been selected in the NFL Draft.
In his first year at Texas A&M 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, and he was the SEC’s leading rusher.
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. Spiller led the SEC in rushing yards by a freshman in 2019.
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. Graham also coached FSU’s special teams, and he helped mentor three-time All-American placekicker Roberto Aguayo, who was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
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 1,438 rushing yards in 1995 are the second-most rushing yards in a single season in program history, and his 2,609 career rushing yards are the eighth-most in school history. 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 attempts from 1993-96.
Not only has Graham coached with Pruitt before, but he’s also been on the same staff as two other current UT assistants. Graham coached under Jim Chaney in 2012 during Chaney’s first stint as the Vols’ offensive coordinator, and current defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley was on UT’s staff in 2012 as well.