COLUMBIA -- Jay Graham became a football coach for the first time in 2005 after playing running back in the NFL from 1997-2002. His first job was as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Tennessee, and it didn't take long for him to consider how much he'd like to someday join the Volunteers' staff on a full-time basis.
That happened Tuesday, as Tennessee coach Derek Dooley hired Graham away from South Carolina, where he spent three years coaching running backs, and added tight ends to his duties this season. He will coach running backs at Tennessee, where he will head immediately. So he will not be with the Gamecocks in the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska.
"I think it'll be a little difficult to do that," Graham said. "You're in the heart of recruiting season right now, so it's important to get out there (to Tennessee)."
Graham came to USC after working at Miami (Ohio), Tennessee-Martin, San Diego and Chattanooga, after his one year as a graduate assistant at Tennessee, where, as a player, he ran for 2,609 yards (seventh on the school's all-time list) from 1993-96.
USC was his first experience with big-time recruiting, and he acquitted himself quite well. He helped land Marcus Lattimore, the nation's No. 1 running back in the Class of 2010. Graham was also the primary recruiter for USC's current true freshman running back Shon Carson, the No. 28 running back in the Class of 2011.
"Coach Graham did an excellent job here for the past three years," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. "He told me that coaching at his alma mater is something he wanted to do. He's a very good coach and an outstanding person. We wish him the best in his coaching career."
For 2012, Graham had already landed commitments from Jody Fuller (the No. 37 wide receiver in his class), Kendric Salley (the No. 43 running back) and twin offensive linemen Brock and Clayton Stadnik (the No. 21 tackle and No. 15 center, respectively). Fuller and Brock Stadnik are two of USC's five commitments for 2012 who received a four-star ranking from Rivals.com.
"Any time you can have a chance to coach in the SEC, it's a high level of recruiting," Graham said. "Five of the schools in the SEC are going to be in the top 10 in recruiting in the country. You start getting into those recruiting battles with those types of schools, so it really helps you understand the process of it."
His recruiting experience in South Carolina and North Carolina, where he is originally from, could serve him well with the Volunteers, because the state of Tennessee does not usually have a wealth of high school football talent.
After his NFL career ended, Graham got his degree from Tennessee in 2004. He also earned his master's in sports management from Tennessee in 2008, while coaching at Miami (Ohio).
Coaches All-SEC selections
USC defensive end Melvin Ingram was a first-team selection on the Southeastern Conference coaches' all-conference team, announced Tuesday. Ingram also made The Associated Press' All-SEC first team. Left tackle Rokevious Watkins made the AP first team and coaches' second team. Running back Marcus Lattimore made both second teams. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney made only the coaches' second team. Spur linebacker Antonio Allen and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery made only the AP second team. Coaches could not vote for their own players.