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A Look at Pruitt’s Newest Hires on Vols’ Staff

Jay Graham

(Photo via Amy Smotherman Burgess/Knoxville News Sentinel)

Position: Running Backs Coach
Age: 44
Salary: $575,000/year
Track Record:
2018-19 —
Texas A&M, Co-Offensive Coordinator/RBs Coach
2014-17 — Florida State, RBs Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
2013 — Florida State, RBs Coach
2012 — Tennessee, RBs Coach
2011 — South Carolina, RBs/TEs Coach
2009-10 — South Carolina, RBs Coach
2008 — Miami (Ohio), RBs Coach
2007 — UT-Martin, RBs Coach/Recruiting Coordinator

Bio:

There’s been a trend in the last three years of bringing back more “orange blood” to Tennessee, and hiring Jay Graham as running backs coach is another example of that.

Graham was a high-level running back for the Vols back in the 1990s, and he coached running backs at Tennessee in 2012 as well, serving under former head coach Derek Dooley. Current UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley were also on that staff, so Graham has familiarity not only with Tennessee, but also with those two coaches. Graham was also on the same 2013 Florida State coaching staff as Jeremy Pruitt.

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.

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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.

With the exception of his first year at Florida State in 2013, Graham’s influence in his first year has resulted in positive growth for a team’s rushing attack. Even at Florida State, the Seminoles went from averaging 205.9 yards and 5.6 yards a carry in 2012 to 203.1 yards and 5.6 yards a carry in Graham’s first year, so there wasn’t a drop-off.

At South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas A&M, Graham’s rushing attack in his first year was an improvement over the previous year.

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 UT  history. He also has the fifth-most carries in a UT career with 540 attempts from 1993-96.

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