John Adams: Vols gain ground with Jay Graham's return

John Adams

The University of Tennessee should name a street after Jay Graham.

He's coming home. And he's bringing hope with him.

He was hired Tuesday as UT's new running backs coach. The news was shocking for a couple of reasons: (1) The general populace didn't realize UT had running backs; (2) he left a similar position at South Carolina, which will be able to hand the ball to Marcus Lattimore again next season.

A little background: Graham was a running back for Tennessee when Tennessee was running downhill and the No. 4 running back on the depth chart could turn the head of an NFL scout. The offensive lines were so good, Smokey could have made a first down on third-and-short.

In Graham's freshman season in 1993, Charlie Garner averaged 7.3 yards per carry; James Stewart,

6.2; Aaron Hayden, 7.8; and Mose Phillips, 5.0.

Graham rushed for 1,438 yards as a junior. He rushed for more than 100 yards in 14 games. Then he followed the running backs ahead of him into the NFL.

UT didn't mind. It was already lining up its next set of future pro running backs.

Running the ball was as easy as running through the "T" back then. Now, it's as easy as running Neyland Stadium from bottom to top in spiked heels.

When Graham carried the ball on UT's behalf, the team was capable of having three 100-yard rushers in a game. In this past season, they had two in 12 games.

Graham came home anyway.

Forget the street. Name an entire building after him. Reward him for his loyalty.

He could have stayed at a top-10 program that will return an All-SEC running back. Instead, he returned to his alma mater when Rocky Top is teetering and the running game finished in the red as many times as it had a 100-yard rusher.

Suddenly, UT fans must be thinking things aren't as hopeless as a 5-7 record and a season-ending loss to Kentucky would suggest. Graham isn't coming home for homecoming. He's coming home with his career in tow.

Given the circumstances, a former running back returning might be the next best thing to a five-star running back signing. By joining coach Derek Dooley's staff, Graham is not only taking a job. He's saying "I believe" when believers are in the minority.

UT could benefit merely by hearing his stories from the mid-1990s when the phrase "offensive line surge" was uttered casually and repeatedly, and a future 1,000-yard rusher barely could get on the field as a freshman.

Imagine the wide-eyed looks when Graham mentions "running lanes." And if a disbeliever says "What's this dude on?," he can show them the video.

Remember Graham's 69-yard touchdown run against Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl? If a UT player runs that far now, he's either chasing an opponent or being punished.

Maybe Graham can help change that. Maybe he can sign someone who reminds him of the runner he left behind at South Carolina, or all the guys ahead of him on the depth chart when he was a UT freshman.

Until he does, a Graham rerun is the closest thing the Vols have to a running game.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 122

vollady writes:

Welcome home, Jay. A great hire for sure.
We look forward to seeing you again and it is great to see a VOL return to help out the situation.

orange_eVOLution writes:

Welcome home, Mr. Graham.

Let's get this ground game going!

GO VOLS!!

Navaloranges writes:

Adams loves to run down the TENNESSEE program. I can see him sneering as he types. One things for sure though, Jay Graham being home, and working as our RB's coach, is pure gold.

thevoice writes:

Smart move by the staff. Welcome home Jay; all-time favorite UT RB.

dlravol2 writes:

Mr. Adams is just telling it like it is.Good article.

scvols writes:

"Remember Graham's 69-yard touchdown run against Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl? If a UT player runs that far now, he's either chasing an opponent or being punished." That was funny!!!

Orange_Pants_Buy_One_Get_One_Free writes:

in response to scvols:

"Remember Graham's 69-yard touchdown run against Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl? If a UT player runs that far now, he's either chasing an opponent or being punished." That was funny!!!

Or running from the cops after beating a man outside a bar.

wildmed writes:

When he played at UT, he was all business, never seeking the spotlight but with the credentials to demand attention. Welcome home, Jay!

VolMan126 writes:

Its great to see he wants to return home! Maybe he can help our young backs. I remember during his time folks complained we ran the ball toooo much! In the words of JOHN WARD "why not run it everytime" as Jay streaks towards the endzone vs the bammers!Go get us a STUD...GO VOLS!!!

gillblog writes:

I'm glad he's here and it can only help recruiting, but as someone else in these pages mentioned before, at SC when Lattimore went down their running game essentially disappeared.

ClemCash writes:

I hope the next coach keeps him on the staff.

TennHillbilly writes:

in response to gillblog:

I'm glad he's here and it can only help recruiting, but as someone else in these pages mentioned before, at SC when Lattimore went down their running game essentially disappeared.

Disappeared? http://espn.go.com/college-football/t...
When Lattimore ran, he averaged 5.o yards per carry. When he got hurt, Jay coached a Freshman to take his place (Brandon Wilds)who ran for 4.5 yards per carry. So yeah, I can see how losing a half yard per carry is qualified as disappearing.

nocleats writes:

RECRUIT RECRUIT RECRUIT!

volinlm writes:

No pressure, Jay.

TennHillbilly writes:

in response to TennHillbilly:

Disappeared? http://espn.go.com/college-football/t...
When Lattimore ran, he averaged 5.o yards per carry. When he got hurt, Jay coached a Freshman to take his place (Brandon Wilds)who ran for 4.5 yards per carry. So yeah, I can see how losing a half yard per carry is qualified as disappearing.

To add to this. Tennessee overall averaged 2.8 yards per carry this season. The only thing that will hold Coach Graham back will be whether Dooley can find someone to coach the offensive line and open up holes for Jay's RBs to plow thru.

volaholic45 writes:

Great news for a program starving for some. There can be no doubt that JG knows what running downhill looks like, and apparently can coach RBs to do it. He can't create blockers, but we can hope that at least the Dancing with the Linemen show will come to an end after a long run (no pun intended).

WhiteHotBleedOrange writes:

Running game disappeared after Lattimore went down? Check B Wilds stats against us?? He came outta nowhere and we were all asking "Who is this kid?"

Madkels writes:

I remember that win over Ohio state and Eddie George (Heisman winner). What a great day that was in Orlando. The rain showers did not dampen us fans at that game!

slb#1351874 writes:

in response to NachoPappy_76:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey Nacho I second that motion.

Flyfisherman writes:

Speaks volumes about this man to want to come home to help rebuild a program he helped make so proud. It shows character to leave what he has helped build at SC. Now if he can just build those fires under the rumps that need to be warmed...

ORNGFACTOR writes:

I think this was a solid move by the AD and CDD. Recruiting is about to split wide open for TN and there are some nice recruits now giving TN another look.

I wonder if Chavis will go to Kansas with Phil?

My Christmas gift to Mr Adams: A chance to write for his Alma Matter - LSU.

JohnnyU writes:

I'm pretty sure Graham stayed his four years and did not go pro after his junior year as the column suggests. '93,'94,'95, and '96, right?

Anyway, I'm glad he's back.

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

Don't forget Graham's run that put away Alabama.

Excellant article btw Adams.

VolMoment writes:

in response to Navaloranges:

Adams loves to run down the TENNESSEE program. I can see him sneering as he types. One things for sure though, Jay Graham being home, and working as our RB's coach, is pure gold.

Navaloranges is right and the ones who say Adams tells it like it is are negative people who don't want anything good to happen to UT. Adams is so shallow he actually is afraid we don't know or has forgotten we didn't have a ground game. So he wants to tell us like we are little children. The little children are the non UT fans who post on here. Ut was in the pits when a young man was hired and told to beat Vanderbilt. The same type negative people back then probably questioned this move while their mother tied their shoes. The coach was General Robert Reese Neyland.

MilitaryBrat writes:

in response to Navaloranges:

Adams loves to run down the TENNESSEE program. I can see him sneering as he types. One things for sure though, Jay Graham being home, and working as our RB's coach, is pure gold.

I agree Naval.

He can't say anything good about this program.
When he starts saying something good, just wait and he will put a some kind of back handed stab in it.

Most of this article he is joking about our run game. Instead of talking about Jay Graham's resume.

He bad mouthed Fulmer, and probably thinks he got him fired.

where_the_magic_happens (Inactive) writes:

I really don't see how he is downing the program. He is simply reporting on a coaching hire and what the new coach meant to the program as a player.

I like the article, not all Adams' articles, but this one is factual and quite funny. Chasing an opponent, that's good stuff. I'm orange through and through, but not stupid enough to not see that it's true. We did chase a lot of people this year.

CrankE writes:

in response to Tau_of_Tennessee:

Don't forget Graham's run that put away Alabama.

Excellant article btw Adams.

Not run. Runs.

1995 and 1996. Both of them epic. Both of them unforgettable.

VOODOOley-2011 (Inactive) writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

VolzsFan writes:

Nice hire. What the masses do not understand that a RB coach title is just that. That position is for recruiting purposes. RB coaches generally have nothing to do with RBs besides running a few drills.

If the Hall of Famer Coach Fulmer wants the KU job (that is one of about 8 big jobs he has been offered since Hammy ruined the program) than he might want to tell his agent Jimmy Sexton. His agent is unaware. In other words, bogus.

Adams is right......finally. It was rolling at a program that very infrequently in its history ever was rolling. He did his part to stir the masses against them. Remember, he is a LSU fan that loves when UT is way down and in turmoil. A few of the simpletons bought in and the Chief Simpelton Hammy thought the vocal minority was the majority.

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to TennHillbilly:

To add to this. Tennessee overall averaged 2.8 yards per carry this season. The only thing that will hold Coach Graham back will be whether Dooley can find someone to coach the offensive line and open up holes for Jay's RBs to plow thru.

It seemed this past year that every coach and player (except the RBs) focused on the pass. I'm glad next year our RBs and our running game will have an advocate in Coach Graham. Our starting line will have over 100 starts among them next year; they can get the job done, with a little hard work and focus.

Watch Fugate this year: a good, strong, hard-running TB and receiver out of the backfield, before they put him at FB and encouraged him to gain 30 lbs. Welcome home, Coach Graham. Go Vols!

CrankE writes:

While we all remember Graham with respect and excitement, I also remember a 1996 season that was probably as frustrating to watch as it was for him to play. That season, Fulmer said that he had "upperclassmen who were underachieving." The running lanes weren't as plentiful and Graham's production suffered.

The glaring need: Coaching the creation of "lanes" is not Graham's job. It's the job of the offensive line coach to instruct the linemen how to do it.

This isn't always 100% true, but it's pretty solid:

NO LANE, NO GAIN.

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

in response to gillblog:

I'm glad he's here and it can only help recruiting, but as someone else in these pages mentioned before, at SC when Lattimore went down their running game essentially disappeared.

I seem to remember a freshman running back that ran for well over a 100 yards against us.

Couchdummy writes:

in response to Madkels:

I remember that win over Ohio state and Eddie George (Heisman winner). What a great day that was in Orlando. The rain showers did not dampen us fans at that game!

I was there and I think the rain didnt dampen my spirit, but it certainly dampened me! I survived and had a great time!!!! Partied like a rock star!

alfrizzle097 writes:

in response to VOODOOley-2011:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Intended homophobic slur, really? I think we're all better than that.

Running backs weren't great this year, but Travis Henry and Jamaal Lewis couldn't run behind the line we had out there. Hopefully they can improve as much at run blocking this off season as they did at pass blocking last off season.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to NachoPappy_76:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

and many others also

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to alfrizzle097:

Intended homophobic slur, really? I think we're all better than that.

Running backs weren't great this year, but Travis Henry and Jamaal Lewis couldn't run behind the line we had out there. Hopefully they can improve as much at run blocking this off season as they did at pass blocking last off season.

Slur or not, spot on
Adams is a piece

lomas98 writes:

in response to JohnnyU:

I'm pretty sure Graham stayed his four years and did not go pro after his junior year as the column suggests. '93,'94,'95, and '96, right?

Anyway, I'm glad he's back.

I don't think the article says he went pro. Adams just stated what his stats were during his junior year, which was his best. I seem to remember his senior year there was a little drop off due to some new offensive lineman. He did stay four years and I think was drafted by the Ravens.

AlpharettaVol writes:

Jay Graham was never one to dance around looking for a hole. He hit the hole hard and kept going. Maybe he can teach this concept to Lane, et al. He clearly outshone Eddie George in that bowl game. Now if someone can provide just a little daylight for our backs to run through . . .

nogo writes:

Is Adams still relevant? Condescending articles are a constant a his sense of humor only plays at funeral homes.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to Orange_Pants_Buy_One_Get_One_Free:

Or running from the cops after beating a man outside a bar.

Hey WDD how's the Muschamp hire working out for you bwahahahaha

A_Voice_ofReason writes:

in response to dlravol2:

Mr. Adams is just telling it like it is.Good article.

Be quiet John, nobody wants to see you commenting on your own article.

lomas98 writes:

in response to fasteddy41:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If the vols had great running games in the 90's, how did the running game disappear under Fulmer when he took over in 92? From 93-07 we had very good running games with minimal drop off. Garner, Stewart, Hayden, Graham, Lewis, Henry, Stephens, Houston, Riggs, Foster, Hardesty. That's a pretty good stable of backs under Fulmer and staff. Surely you are forgetting all Fulmer and staff did with the running game over the awful year of 08, when the whole offense was terrible.

takespix writes:

As good as Jay was, I also remember him being stopped at the goal line by Memphis and and Peyton Manning's led offense had to settle for 3. Point? Even Jay will tell you it all starts with the O line. It was a young one that particular year. Like then, it's a young now. This was a good hire for obvious reasons but the line coach position needs to be reviewed.

VolBy3 writes:

I don't expect the running game to be instantly dominant again, but bringing JG back onboard is a great start.

All4VOLS!!

orangecountyvols writes:

NavalOranges, and other true Vols,

Why do you think I came up with the year-end troll awards as the winners of the John Adams negativity trophy?

Fact is, we Vol fans know the situation. We have not liked it. However, the trolls love it. They want us to stay stuck in neutral forever and they know it won't happen..........that bothers them.

Then, there are the supposed Vol fans such as Merlot who gets on here every day and complains as if it is possible to instantly fix the problems we face. Those are the people who need help big time. To whine and complain day after day, with the same agenda is boring to true Tennessee fans. We know it takes time and it's unrealistic and childish to think otherwise.

brokebackvol writes:

in response to VolMoment:

Navaloranges is right and the ones who say Adams tells it like it is are negative people who don't want anything good to happen to UT. Adams is so shallow he actually is afraid we don't know or has forgotten we didn't have a ground game. So he wants to tell us like we are little children. The little children are the non UT fans who post on here. Ut was in the pits when a young man was hired and told to beat Vanderbilt. The same type negative people back then probably questioned this move while their mother tied their shoes. The coach was General Robert Reese Neyland.

Dude, take off the orange glasses. One of the things I've learned from living outside Big Orange Country for 20 odd years is that while I don't like hearing what Adams has to say at times, he's a professional. It is not his job to be a "homer" but to lend some objectivity to the reporting of our favorite team.

I do agree that these things run in cycles, and UT might be due for another great run in the conference after these lean years. People need to understand that it wasn't long ago when the VOLS were tough and strong for about 20 years, Bama struggled and so did LSU. But we also had some lean years to endure back in the transition years of Battle to Majors. There were some painful losses at times back then, too. The "Sugar Vols" finally broke through but we had to wait a long time in between SEC Championships back then. It was hard, but we're tough and we can endure these lean years too.

Anyway, lay off Adams. Trying to write objectively in the heart of Big Orange country about UT cannot be an easy job. I know I wouldn't want it - I'm too biased towards the Vols!

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to NachoPappy_76:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I just did my part toward that goal.

ROCKYTOP10ECVOL writes:

Does anybody know what time Pig Howard is announcing today?

ROCKYnROCKFORD writes:

Sportswriters know when they nail one. Enjoy your cigar.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Hit the ground running and get some big-time RB recruits! THAT'S what will help the program!...Talent! Show them the tapes of you taking it to the house on those long runs against Bama! Thanks for showing your Orange Pride by coming back to help restore the team when times are tough! GBO!

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