February 25, 2013
Vols suffer major loss to coaching staff
Barely 15 months after coming home to his alma mater and less than 15 days until the start of spring practice, University of Tennessee running backs coach Jay Graham is leaving his post as running backs coach for the Vols.
The former standout running back at Tennessee, who starred alongside Peyton Manning on some of the Vols' most successful teams in the mid-1990s and was drafted into the NFL, was the lone holdover in the transition from Derek Dooley to Butch Jones, but Graham has opted for a position on Jimbo Fisher's Florida State staff.
No less than four sources told VolQuest.com on Monday morning that Graham, touted by Jones as "hired and not retained," has verbally accepted the post to become the running backs coach with more money and more responsibility on the staff at Florida State under Fisher, who was a one-time candidate to replace Dooley here at Tennessee.
Graham had been heralded as an instrumental part of Tennessee's signing day efforts in closing out a top-20 class earlier this month and in the program's efforts charging ahead towards the 2014 recruiting class. Graham was the lead recruiter on a number of the Vols' most high-profile players, most notably standout wide receiver MarQuez North out of Charlotte, N.C.
But Graham was not offered the recruiting coordinator position on Jones' staff, which went to Zach Azzanni, a former Jones assistant whom Jones plucked away from Wisconsin.
However, sources did indicate to VolQuest.com this morning that Jones had attempted to renegotiate Graham's current UT pact for more money. Graham, at $260,000, was one of the Vols' lowest-paid assistant coaches on the new staff, with at least seven other assistants on Jones' first staff commanding a higher compensation.
Jones will need to shift quickly to find Graham's replacement. Spring camp opens March 9, and Graham was very popular among players, as well as future futures. While tight ends coach Mark Elder has previously coached running backs, Jones is expected to seek another coach with an extensive background coaching running backs. One potential candidate could be Des Kitchings, previously at N.C. State and Vanderbilt, who earlier in this process had interest in the Vols' then-open wide receivers job.
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