Jeremy Pruitt has done an incredible job of bringing a “Tennessee feel” back to Rocky Top since being hired as the Vols’ head coach in late 2017.
Pruitt has made three specific hires that UT fans loved.
The former Alabama defensive coordinator hired Jim Chaney to be the program’s offensive coordinator before the 2019 season. Chaney previously served as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator from 2009-2012. Pruitt also hired former Vols quarterback Tee Martin to coach UT’s wide receivers and former Tennessee running back Jay Graham to coach the running backs.
This will be Graham’s second stint coaching at Tennessee. He previously served on UT’s staff in 2012 under Derek Dooley.
The former Vols running back was initially retained by Butch Jones in late 2012/early 2013. But after a few months on the job with Jones, Graham decided to leave Tennessee to work for Jimbo Fisher at Florida State (in 2013 Graham coached alongside Pruitt in Tallahassee).
Graham has never publicly spoken about why he left Jones’ staff, but it certainly feels like he wasn’t a good fit with Butch.
Jones’ staff was mostly made up of buddies he made while coaching in the MAC and at Cincinnati. Graham’s offensive philosophy didn’t exactly line up with Butch’s. And I imagine their personalities didn’t either.
Comments this week from Graham, about how much he loves Tennessee, illustrate how difficult it must’ve been for the former UT standout to leave Knoxville in early 2013.
“I’ve always had a love for Tennessee and what it’s meant to me. It’s more than just football. It’s the university and what this area means,” said Graham on Wednesday during a virtual media session with reporters.
“I am fortunate to have this opportunity to do this at Tennessee,” added Graham. “This is always a place that I envisioned myself coaching. It’s a blessing to have that opportunity. I’ve been a lot of places, but there’s no place like Tennessee. There’s no place like it. I’m excited about the opportunity.”
It’s clear that Graham wants to be in Knoxville. There’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
I think this shows us that Graham quickly got a terrible vibe from Jones and knew he had to disassociate himself with the Butch Jones brand.
As hard as it must’ve been for Graham to leave Tennessee, he made the right choice.
It’s just further proof that Jones was an all-time bad fit at UT.
Of course, that’s what happens when you let Dave Hart, an Alabama alumnus, make a coaching hire.
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