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Tennessee Tries To Lure Georgia Assistant, Hires West Virginia Coach/Former Florida Player

Robert GillespieTennessee has a new running backs coach. Head coach Butch Jones announced Friday night that West Virginia running backs coach Robert Gillespie has been hired to replace Jay Graham, who departed for Florida State.

“Coach Gillespie brings a vast knowledge of the SEC, having been part of it as both a player and a coach,” Jones said. In addition to coaching at West Virginia, Gillespie has spent time at South Carolina and Oklahoma State.  Jay Graham replaced Gillespie at South Carolina when he left for Oklahoma State.  Gillespie played his college ball at Florida, rushing for more than 1,800 yards from 1998 to 2001.

In addition to Gillespie, Tennessee also interviewed Georgia assistant Tony Ball.  Georgia A.D. Greg McGarity confirmed Friday night that Ball interviewed with Tennessee but is staying with the Bulldogs. reported Friday night that Ball had “accepted UGA’s counter.”  Current Tennessee assistant coaches John Jancek and Willie Martinez had spent time on the Georgia staff with Ball, who has coached the Bulldogs wide receivers the past four seasons.


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Rebels Lose Assistant McGriff To NFL’s Saints

WESLEYMCGRIFF150With spring practice just around the corner, the SEC’s coaching carousel is supposed to be still and silent by now.  But on Monday, somebody gave the thing another big spin.

Hours after it was learned that Tennessee would lose running backs coach and solid recruiter Jay Graham to Florida State, Ole Miss also took a hit.  And the Rebels also lost a good recruiter.

The New Orleans Saints announced late yesterday the hiring of Wesley McGriff, Mississippi’s cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator last year.  As a recruiter, McGriff led UM’s efforts in landing 5-star prospects Robert Nkemdiche and Laquon Treadwell. named him as one of the 25 best recruiters in the nation for his work.

McGriff will serve as the Saints’ defensive backs coach.  Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze will now begin his search for McGriff’s replacement.

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WOW Headlines – 2/25/13

Tennessee G Trae Golden has been named the SEC’s Player of the Week
Kentucky F Willie Cauley-Stein has been named the SEC’s Freshman of the Week
Backup Florida G Michael Frazier will not play tomorrow at Tennessee due to a concussion
Tennessee RB coach Jay Graham is leaving Knoxville to join Florida State’s staff
Georgia coach Mark Richt says he doesn’t “have any plans on naming anybody recruiting coordinator” to replace Rodney Garner, who’s gone to Auburn
NFL writer Peter King predicts four of the first five picks in the NFL draft will come from SEC schools
The defensive coaching staff of the Green Bay Packers will visit Texas A&M and coach Kevin Sumlin for a crash course on the read-option offense
Follow the SEC every single day at and at

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Vols Lose Assistant/Alum Graham To Florida State

mrsec-breaking-newsNew head football coach Butch Jones has suffered his first big loss at Tennessee. — the Rivals site covering Tennessee — reports today that Vol running backs coach Jay Graham has verbally accepted an offer from Jimbo Fisher to join his Florida State staff in the same capacity.  Regarded as a strong recruiter, Graham left South Carolina to return to his alma mater under Derek Dooley in late-2011.

The site reports that Graham will receive “more money with more responsibility” in Tallahassee.

Jones and his first batch of Volunteers open spring practice in a little less than two weeks.  They’ll need to find a running backs coach between now and then.  According to the coach’s Twitter feed his search is already underway:





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Marquez North Commits To Tennessee

Tennessee received a commitment Wednesday night from wide receiver Marquez North from Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, N.C.

“I was just comfortable with everything at Tennessee,” North told “I was really comfortable with the new staff. It’s just big-time football and it’s not that far away from home.

“I just felt like it was the best fit for me. I’m coming in with the new staff and it’s like starting from scratch and I feel like I can make a name for myself through hard work.”

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley was fired in November and replaced by head coach Butch Jones. But the assistant coach recruiting North, running backs coach Jay Graham, was retained. That made a difference in North’s recruitment.

“Jay graham has really taken me under his wing,” North said.

He committed to Tennessee over North Carolina. Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora was scheduled to visit North in his home this week, but North canceled that visit.

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Foreman Switches Commitment To Tennessee

Athlete Malik Foreman from Kingsport (Tenn.) Dobyns-Bennett High School has switched his commitment from Vanderbilt to Tennessee.

Foreman, who could play either defensive back or wide receiver in college, called Tennessee head coach Butch Jones and assistant coach Jay Graham to give his commitment.

“(Jones) was very excited,” Foreman told MrSEC. “They said that I was a playmaker and that I could do a lot of things on the field that could contribute to the team.”

Athlete Devaun Swafford, Foreman’s teammate, also committed to Tennessee. Swafford was offered a greyshirt opportunity, which means he would enroll full-time in January 2014. Foreman said he believes there’s still a chance Swafford could join the 2013 class.

Foreman said he called Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to inform him of his decision to switch his commitment to Tennessee.

“It was very difficult,” Foreman said. “I love the coaches, the whole atmosphere, Nashville. I liked everything.”

Foreman and Swafford give Tennessee 16 commitments for the class of 2013.

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Turman Set To Announce Decision

Running back A.J. Turman from Boone High School in Orlando, Fla., will announce his college decision tonight at 6:30 eastern time.

Turman’s recruiting has been focused on Georgia, Tennessee and Florida State.

“All three of them are coming hard, so I’m not sure who I’d say is recruiting me the hardest,” Turman told the Orlando Sentinel last week.

Georgia, which received a visit from Turman earlier this month, is deep at running back. But the Bulldogs have impressed Turman with their 9-1 record this season.

“Georgia probably has the best program going on right now (among the schools he’s considering),” Turman said. “They’re winning a lot of games and I like all their coaches. They have a real solid offensive line and a good team and assistant coaches.”

The future of Tennessee’s coaching staff is in question. Head coach Derek Dooley isn’t expected to be retained next season. But it seems like the status of running backs coach Jay Graham is most important to Turman.

“(Dooley’s status) concerns me a little bit,” Turman said. “I hate to see them lose their coach but it doesn’t affect me that much because the running backs coach told me he would be staying.”

The proximity of Florida State is an advantage for the Seminoles.

“It’s close to home and I know a lot of people already up there,” Turman said. “A lot of kids I know go to school at FSU. I like the system they run with the running backs and it’s a nice program.”

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Firing Dooley And Staff Could Cost Vols Up To $9.3 Million

Ask 10 people at the University of Tennessee about Derek Dooley’s job security and you’re likely to get 10 different answers.  Some say Dooley and crew are well aware that they’ll need to win out to keep their jobs.  Others say that UT is likely to keep the coach because it takes time to rebuild a program.  Steve Spurrier’s process at South Carolina has been cited by more than one Tennessee employee in the past few days… suggesting the Vols will give Dooley as much time as USC gave the Ol’ Ball Coach.

It’s our belief that the decision of athletic director Dave Hart will be a green one and not a black-and-white one.  If he feels it’s too costly in terms of lost donations, ticket revenue, concessions and merchandising sales, etc, to proceed with Dooley, he’ll boot him.  If he feels that it’s too costly in the short-term to blow the staff up — in a year when UT’s athletic department experienced a shortfall — then he’ll keep him.

Well, the cost of vamoosing Dooley and staff is pretty steep.  As much as $9.3 million steep.

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Carolina Quickly Completes Coaching Staff

When things are rolling, it’s easy to hire assistant coaches.  And Steve Spurrier has things rolling at South Carolina.

In a flurry of activity this weekend, the Gamecocks’ coach has filled three vacancies on his staff with two hires coming Friday and one more today:

* Joe Robinson as special teams coordinator  and tight ends coach — replacing John Butler (left for Penn State)

* Everette Sands as running backs coach — replacing Jay Graham (left for Tennessee)

* Kirk Botkin as linebackers coach — replacing Ellis Johnson (left to become head coach at Southern Miss)

Johnson’s de facto defensive coordinator position has been filled by the recently-promoted Lorenzo Ward.  Botkin will handle his role with USC’s linebackers.

Robinson comes to South Carolina from North Carolina where he served as the Tar Heels’ special teams coach and defensive line coach.  Prior to UNC, Robinson was on Les Miles’ staff at LSU.

Sands joins Spurrier’s staff from NC State.  Before his one season in Raleigh, Sands worked at The Citadel from 2005 through 2010.  He is also a Palmetto State native, so he should have good ties across the state.

Botkin is a former All-SEC player at Arkansas.  He coached defensive ends and special teams at his alma maer in 2008 and 2009 under Bobby Petrino.  The past two seasons he’s been coaching high school in Texarkana, Texas.  (Sidenote — I hear there’s beer in Texarkana.  And the boys are thirsty in Atlanta.)

Former Texas A&M running backs coach Randy Jordan was also on Spurrier’s radar before he landed at North Carolina with new coach Larry Fedora.  From the looks of it, Spurrier — like most SEC coaches — is eager to find someone with recruiting ties to the Lone Star State with Texas A&M now giving the league a foothold in that state.  Botkin fits that bill.

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UT Loses Hiestand, Hires Pittman, Waits On Sunseri

Tennessee’s search for a new defensive coordinator has taken several twists and turns in the past two weeks, but grabbing a new offensive line coach was smooth, easy sailing for Derek Dooley. 

Just hours after it was reported that Harry Hiestand would officially be leaving the Vols for Notre Dame, UT announced the hire of Sam Pittman from North Carolina.  Pittman’s reputation as a good recruiter aided Dooley’s decision.

“Sam has an excellent reputation and track record as an offensive line coach and as a recruiter,” UT’s coach said via release.  “He brings a considerable amount to our program as a coach and a person, and we are excited that he is joining our staff.”

Pittman joins new running backs coach Jay Graham (from South Carolina) as the new guys on the Vol staff.  But there will be more. 

Tennessee appears to be waiting on an answer from Alabama assistant head coach and linebackers coach Sal Sunseri about the Vols’ open D-coordinator job.  If he turns it down, it’s believed Navy’s Buddy Green — who interviewed in Knoxville yesterday — will land the position.

Dooley is also waiting on Rich Bisaccia of the San Diego Chargers to accept or turn down UT’s offer of the special teams coordinator position.

And, as we’ve noted before, if current Tennessee defensive lineman coach Lance Thompson is passed over for the coordinator promotion — and all signs suggest he will be — it’s possible that he might listen to other offers.

But for now, Tennessee waits for Sunseri to say yea or nay.

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