Jay Graham, a record-setting Tennessee running back who developed a reputation as an ace recruiter and an impressive coach, is leaving his alma mater for Florida State.
Jones confirmed the news on his Twitter account Monday morning. As of Monday night, Florida State had yet to officially announce Graham’s hiring.
“The process of adding a new coach to our staff is under way, and we will hire the best person possible as we continue to build our program,” Jones wrote.
Attempts to reach Graham Monday were unsuccessful. His university-issued cellphone went straight to voice mail.
Graham, 37, was slated to make $260,000 in 2013, a $35,000 raise from what he would have made on former coach Derek Dooley’s staff, but still the second-lowest salary on Jones’ nine-man coaching staff. A source in the athletic department familiar with the negotiations said Tennessee had offered Graham another raise to $300,000.
Graham’s salary or title on Jimbo Fisher’s staff at Florida State has not yet been announced.
He came to Tennessee from South Carolina after the 2011 season and spent one year under Dooley. He was credited with helping develop Tennessee running backs Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane as part of a renewed rushing attack.
Graham was the only coach from Dooley’s staff retained by Jones, who credited him with helping build the 2013 signing class. Graham was the primary recruiter for highly touted receiver MarQuez North.
Graham, a North Carolina native, played for the Vols from 1993-96, rushing for 2,609 yards before embarking on a five-year NFL career.
Last month, FSU hired running backs coach Randy Sanders, who spent 22 seasons as a player and assistant coach at UT before joining the staff at Kentucky from 2006-12. Sanders was Graham’s position coach during his playing career at UT.
Graham will also be reunited with defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri, who was UT’s defensive coordinator in 2012 and was hired by Fisher in December.
Graham was a popular figure with Vols’ fans, receiving three standing ovations during a post-National Signing Day tour of the state earlier this month.
Jones told fans that Graham was “rehired” not “retained” for his new staff, and that Graham had helped him get the lay of the land during his first few weeks on the job.
Jones did not make an appearance on UT’s weekly, statewide coaches call-in radio show Vols Calls on Monday night.
For his part, Graham said he felt welcome on a staff in which he was one of only two coaches who had not worked with Jones previously.
“This is a great group of guys,” Graham said in December. “I’ve enjoyed being around them and I’ve enjoyed being around Coach Jones. There are no egos; they just work hard. They’re blue-collar coaches that understand recruiting and watching tape and understand what they’re looking for.”
Graham’s departure leaves Tennessee with only one black coach in an on-field coaching role — linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen. Every other SEC team has at least three black assistant coaches in on-field roles. Eight of the 14 SEC teams have at least four black assistant coaches.
If Jones turns to someone he has worked with before, Roy Manning could be his first option. Manning coached running backs for Cincinnati last year but was not offered an on-field coaching job at UT. Manning, who is black, is now at Northern Illinois.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.