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Jay Graham returns to his Tennessee roots

Jay Graham, one of the most productive running backs in Tennessee history, is returning to his alma mater.

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley announced on Tuesday that Graham had joined the Vols' staff as running backs coach. Graham spent the past three seasons as running backs coach at South Carolina and played a big role in Marcus Lattimore's development. Graham also worked with the tight ends in Columbia and was one of the Gamecocks' best recruiters.

“Jay is not only one of the most accomplished running backs in Tennessee history, but he has also proven to be one of the top running backs coaches in the SEC,” Dooley said. “Jay understands what it means to be a Vol, and we are thrilled to have him on our staff.”

Graham joins a Tennessee staff that didn't have a full-time running backs coach the past two seasons. Graduate assistant Chino Fontenette had been working with the running backs.

The Vols are looking for any kind of spark they can find in their running game, which was one of the worst in major college football in 2011. They ranked 116th out of 120 teams nationally in rushing offense and averaged just 90.1 yards per game on the ground.

“I am thankful to Coach Dooley for giving me the opportunity to return to Tennessee,” said Graham, who rushed for 2,609 yards during his Tennessee career and ranks seventh all-time. “Tennessee is a program with great football tradition and fan support, and I am honored to join the coaching staff for the Vols.”

Tennessee also officially announced Tuesday that associate head coach and receivers coach Charlie Baggett would not return next season, which opened up a spot for Graham.

The Vols could have another vacancy on their coaching staff before too long. Eric Russell, the Vols' special teams coordinator and tight ends coach, is a strong candidate to join Mike Leach at Washington State.