It was not that long ago that Tennessee football was in a precarious position. After the failed Butch Jones era, former athletic director, John Currie, found himself bogged down in an exhaustive search for Tennessee’s next head football coach. Little did Currie know that false reports and failed attempts would seal his fate and make him the ex-AD. What other misfortunes could plague this once illustrious and prominant football powerhouse?
Then Phillip Fulmer made his appearance as the “Battle Captain” and began to right the ship and turn it back in the direction of becoming one of college football’s elite teams once again. After hiring Jeremy Pruitt away from Alabama, one of Fulmer’s first concerns was putting former members of the Vol family into positions of power on the coaching staff knowing that they would be wholeheartedly committed to the Orange and White. Tennessee fans had watched as these individuals had excelled on staff at other Universities. Fulmer realized they needed to come home to Rocky Top.
After a failed attempt by Butch Jones to lure Tee Martin, quarterback for UT’s 1998 National Championship team, away form being Southern California’s Offensive Coordinator, Fulmer recognized that there was no one better qualified to be Tennessee’s new Assistant OC. Hiring Martin was finally accomplished in January 2019 when he was added to Coach Pruitt’s staff, not only as Asst. OC, but also Wide Receivers’ Coach.
Also recognized as having high coaching capabilities was Vols former running back and All-American, Jay Graham, who had been the RB coach at several schools including, most recently, Texas A&M. With his former coach as AD, Graham felt it was time to come home and accepted the invitation.
It didn’t take long for Martin and Graham to make their presence known. Tee Martin brought with him one of USC’s best receivers/returners in Velus Jones, Jr. to add to the WR corps. Graham, having coached muliple star running backs, including Cam Akers at Florida State and Trayveon Williams at Texas A&M, added his expertise. Both began immediately implementing their brand of football.
Looking back over the past year, the obvious contributions made by Martin and Graham in their respective position groups have had much to do with UT’s 8-game winning streak. Coach Tee currently has his WR group sitting #2 in the country among Power Five units. He also has had a definite positive effect on quarterback, Jarrett Guarantano. Tennessee has no interceptions thus far on the year and JG has the fastest average throwing release time at 2.10 seconds. This is a good illustration of just how quickly the wide receivers are getting open. As for Graham, things look especially promising in the rushing game with the Vols currently at #2 in the SEC with 182.5 yards per game, up from 140 yards last year. Many people would attribute this stat to the improved offensive line, but it cannot be overstated the job Coach Graham has done.
Tennessee is once again on track to become a true contender in the SEC and on the national scene, and Tee Martin and Jay Graham have been instrumental in seeing that happens. Vol Nation is excited and encouraged as they watch their team, once again, enter into the “Glory Days”.