Graham going back to Rocky Top, Vols

Former USC assistant won't coach in Capital One Bowl

jkendall@thestate.comDecember 6, 2011 

Jay Graham

Jay Graham, South Carolina’s former running backs coach and a heavyweight recruiter in the Southeast, is headed home.

Graham has taken the running backs coaching job at Tennessee, where he rushed for 2,906 yards from 1993-1996, launching a six-year NFL career.

“Coach Graham did an excellent job here for the past three years,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said in a statement released by the school. “He told me that coaching at his alma mater is something he wanted to do. He’s a very good coach and an outstanding person. We wish him the best in his coaching career.”

Spurrier did not announce a timeline to find a replacement for Graham, who will not coach for No. 10 South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2. Graham told The State he already has begun work recruiting for the Volunteers, who did not make a bowl game this year under head coach Derek Dooley.

Graham declined to comment further because he was working Tuesday.

“I am thankful to Coach Dooley for giving me the opportunity to return to Tennessee,” Graham said in a statement released by the Volunteers. “Tennessee is a program with great football tradition and fan support, and I am honored to join the coaching staff for the Vols.”

A Durham, N.C., native, Graham left Tennessee early for the NFL and then returned to earn a degree in psychology in 2004 and a master’s in sports management in 2008.

“Jay is not only one of the most accomplished running backs in Tennessee history, but he has also proven to be one of the top running backs coaches in the SEC,” Dooley said in a statement released by Tennessee. “Jay understands what it means to be a Vol, and we are thrilled to have him on our staff.”

Graham’s addition will give the Volunteers a boost in recruiting, said national recruiting analyst Chad Simmons, which Dooley needs coming off a 5-7 season.

“I think it’ll be big to be honest probably on both sides,” Simmons said, “in a positive way for Tennessee and in a negative way for South Carolina. I hear his name a good bit when people compliment coaches recruiting them in the South.”

North Carolina running back Keith Marshall, the top-ranked back in the Class of 2012, committed to Georgia on Tuesday. He had considered South Carolina because of his relationship with Graham, Simmons said.

“I think his ability to relate to kids is big in recruiting,” Simmons said.

Mike Davis, a Georgia running back who many consider the top prospect in that state, de-committed from Florida this week. Graham had been trying to convince him to visit South Carolina, Simmons said.

“Obviously now he takes that to Tennessee,” Simmons said.

Davis actually visited Tennessee officially last weekend and has an official visit planned to USC for a weekend in January.

Graham coached at Chattanooga, San Diego, UT-Martin and Miami (Ohio) before joining the Gamecocks in 2009.

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