In a move that will come as a shock to the Carolina Nation, USC running backs/tight ends coach Jay Graham has resigned from the Gamecocks staff to accept the position of running backs coach at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee.
Graham came to Columbia in 2009 to replace former running backs coach
Madre Hill Robert Gillespie. In his first year, he led led an improved ground attack, resulting in over 1,000 rushing yards from the unproven troika of Kenny Miles (616), Brian Maddox (324) and Jarvis Giles (298). His coaching of Marcus Lattimore in 2010-2011, and Brandon Wilds in 2011 was superlative. He was also considered one of our top recruiters.
His resignation leaves a big hole. Coach Spurrier relied on him to the point that he was the sole recruiter we sent to the last in-home visit with Keith Marshall (who unsurprisingly committed to UGA today). More importantly, his departure will likely put us behind in the recruitment of Florida de-commit Mike Davis of Atlanta for next year's class, and also big-time class of 2013 prospect Harold Atkinson of Carolina Forest. Worse, his new position in Knoxville gives the Vols an easy entree back into the Carolinas - a hotbed of successful UT recruiting in the past.
At this point, we cannot be sure if it was the lure of more money, or better prospects for advancement, or a love for Rocky Top (or all three) that prompted Jay to make this move. Tennessee is obviously one of the premiere CFB programs in the country, though down-on-its-luck the last couple of seasons - something that we USC fans are certainly not disappointed in seeing continued into 2012 and beyond. The outstanding Tauren Poole graduates from UT this year, and while the Vols have three running back commitments for 2012, it's a surprise that Graham would not want to return to coach Marcus Lattimore in # 21's likely final season at Carolina - and also to a potential Heisman Trophy run for 2012. UT Head Coach Derek Dooley has not had a pure RB coach until now, which may account for him reaching out to a big-time Volunteer alum/coach like Graham.
A native of North Carolina, Graham enjoyed a spectacular career at Knoxville from 1993-1996, rushing for 2,609 career yards [6th All-time at UT], before playing in the the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, and the CFL for the Montreal Alouettes; he won a World Championship ring at Super Bowl XXXV, when the Ravens defeated the Giants 34-7. He entered coaching in 2005 as a G.A. at Tennessee, followed by stints at UT Chattanooga (2006), UT Martin (2007) and Miami of Ohio (2008).
With all the coaching staff turn-over this year, I'm not worried we won't find an excellent replacement, but it is a bit of a concern to lose a Coach of Graham's caliber before a big bowl matchup with Nebraska, and also for its recruiting implications.
In any event, we don't cry over spilled milk 'round these parts, so we wish Jay well and thank him for all he has done for the Unversity of South Carolina - and we look forwarding to crushing his guys when the Vols come to Williams-Brice Stadium in 2012!