Vols hire Jay Graham from Texas A&M to coach running backs

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee -- Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt announced the hire of former Tennessee star Jay Graham as running backs coach on Thursday.

Graham has established himself as one of the country's top mentors of running backs during stops at Texas A&M, Florida State and South Carolina in recent years. He rushed for 2,609 yards and 25 touchdowns for the Vols from 1993-96 and played in the NFL for six years.

"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."

After his professional football career, Graham returned to UT and earned his bachelor's degree in Psychology in 2004 before embarking on his collegiate coaching career. He earned his master's degree in Sports Management from Tennessee in 2009.

He previously coached UT's running backs in 2012, teaming up with current offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

In 2013, he won a national championship at Florida State alongside Pruitt.

Graham has coached some of college football's top running backs of the last decade, including NFL stars Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings, 2019 Pro Bowl selection) and Devonta Freeman (Atlanta Falcons, two Pro Bowls) and All-SEC running backs Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M) and Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina).

Since 2013, six Graham-coached running backs have been selected in the NFL Draft.

This past season, Graham coached Texas A&M true freshman Isaiah Spiller to a 946-yard, 10-touchdown, SEC All-Freshman season. Spiller led all SEC freshman running backs in rushing yards.

In 2018, Williams set Texas A&M single-season records and led the SEC in all-purpose yards (2,038) and rushing yards (1,760) in 2018 while scoring 18 touchdowns. He was a sixth-round pick by the Bengals in 2019. Additionally, fullback Cullen Gillaspia was a seventh-round selection by the Houston Texans.

Cook set Florida State school records for single-season rushing yards (1,765 in 2016) and career rushing yards (4,464 from 2014-16) under Graham's tutelage. He finished in the top 10 in Heisman Trophy voting in 2015 and 2016 and was a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Graham coached Freeman at Florida State to a 1,016-yard, 15-touchdown season as the Seminoles finished 14-0 and won the 2013 national championship with an offense that scored a national-record 723 points.

Graham also guided Florida State's special teams units from 2014-17, coaching three-time All-American placekicker Roberto Aguayo, who was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Prior to joining Jimbo Fisher's staff at Florida State, Graham spent one season at his alma mater in 2012, helping the Vols more than double their rushing output from 70.4 yards per game in 2011 to 160.3 yards per game in 2012 behind Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane.

He spent three seasons at South Carolina from 2009-11, where he coached Lattimore to consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, including 1,609 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2010. Lattimore was a fourth-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers.

Graham also served one-year stints at Miami (Ohio), UT-Martin, San Diego and Chattanooga after getting his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 2005.

Graham grabbed All-SEC second-team honors in 1995 and 1996 while leading Tennessee in rushing both seasons.

The Concord, N.C., native rushed for 1,438 yards in 1995, the second-most in a single season ever by a Vol, collecting a school-record 11 100-yard games and scoring 12 touchdowns along the way that year.

He had 797 yards and 11 scores in 1996. He ranks second in school history with 14 career 100-yard games.

Graham was a third-round selection by Baltimore Ravens in 1997. He played six years in the NFL with the Ravens, Packers and Seahawks.

Graham and his wife, Kelly, are the parents of three daughters, Nia, Denae and Kierra, and two sons, Jayson and Kellan.