Jones has vacancy to fill

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With just 12 days until the start of spring football, Butch Jones and the Tennessee coaching staff have a vacancy to fill with the departure of running backs coach Jay Graham.

Graham, a former running back with Tennessee (1993-96), was added to former head coach Derek Dooley's staff just one year, two months and 19 days ago and leaves Jones & Co. in a tight spot, but the search is ongoing.

"Jay Graham has informed us of his decision to accept a position at another institution," Jones said in a statement via Twitter. "The process of adding a new coach to our staff is underway, and we will hire the best person possible as we continue to build our program."

Under the leadership of Graham, the Vols rushed for an average of 160.3 yards per game in 2012, gaining just short of 2000 yards on the year, a significant improvement over the 2011 season that saw the Vols rush for just 70.4 yards per game. Under the watchful eye of Graham, rising senior, Rajion Neal completed a career season with 741 yards rushing and five touchdowns during his junior year.

No one seemed happier than Graham, who was slotted to rake in $260,000 in 2013, to return to Rocky Top and wear the Orange & White, this time as a coach.

"I am thankful to Coach Dooley for giving me the opportunity to return to Tennessee," Graham said following his hiring with the Vols. "Tennessee is a program with great football tradition and fan support, and I am honored to join the coaching staff for the Vols."

And now just 447 days after Graham gave that statement, he is leaving the Vols for a coaching opportunity under Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher. Graham joined the Vols after three seasons at South Carolina, where he coached running backs and tight ends during his tenure.

Fans can expect the Vols and coach Jones to act quickly given the timetable before the opening of spring practice. One name to keep in mind is former Cincinnati running backs coach Roy Manning. A former Michigan Wolverine, Manning spent four seasons in the NFL with various teams before returning to the college game in the coaching ranks. He is currently employed at Northern Illinois.

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