Former Chicago Bears assistant Tim Spencer interviewed for the Tennessee running backs job this week, a UT athletic department source familiar with the search told the News Sentinel on Wednesday.
Coach Butch Jones is searching for a replacement for Jay Graham, who left Monday to join the Florida State staff. FSU has yet to officially confirm Graham’s hiring or his role on the team.
Spencer, 52, spent the last nine seasons as running backs coach for the Bears. Before that, he spent 10 seasons as an assistant at Ohio State, coaching under John Cooper and Jim Tressel.
The source, who requested anonymity because the search is still ongoing, said at least one other candidate would interview this week.
The remaining candidates are currently employed coaches. Former Tennessee and Auburn assistant Trooper Taylor is not a candidate for the job, the source said.
Spencer was a star running back at Ohio State who went on to a 10-year career in the USFL and NFL. Spencer has two links to Jones from his time in Chicago, where he worked with Mike Bajakian, UT’s current offensive coordinator, and Mike DeBord, a former head coach at Central Michigan who is close to Jones and many of his staff members.
Spencer was not retained by new Bears coach Marc Trestman, who replaced the fired Lovie Smith.
UT starts spring practice on March 9, and is likely to have the new coach on board by then. But there are several contingency plans in the event of a delay. Tight ends coach Mark Elder has coached running backs in the past, and the Vols have several graduate assistants and interns who could be temporarily authorized to fill the ninth on-field coaching slot.
Graham, a former Tennessee running back, was slated to make $265,000 in 2013. At Florida State he’ll be reunited with Randy Sanders, a former UT player and longtime assistant coach who served as Graham’s position coach in college. FSU’s staff also includes defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri, who was UT’s defensive coordinator in 2012.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.