Vols RB coach Jay Graham media availability transcript

Vols RB coach Jay Graham / Credit: UT Athletics

Jay Graham, Running Backs Coach

On getting to know the skills of each player after taking a new job…

“I think first you just have a number of meetings. It’s an initial meeting just to see what their thoughts are, what they think their strengths are as a player, to discuss academics, social life and parents. You want to get a good picture of the guy you’re coaching. Just over time you get more of a feel of how they think about things. Obviously, you get to the field and you start practicing, but the adjustment is really important. You have a couple practices and you think, ‘How is he developing? What’s his mindset? How is he thinking about himself and how to get better?’”

On Dee Beckwith’s adjustment to running back…

“Dee (Beckwith) has done a really good job. In high school he did some wildcat and some things, so he had an understanding of it. When he first moved over, it hadn’t been long, but I tried to stick with what he does naturally and adjust from there. I think he’s done well with it. There’s been some times where we had to get him in position and I had to yell some things at him just as far as technique goes, but I think he’s done a really good job so far there. For a taller guy, he has the athleticism to do it and to play the position, so he’s been a really big help for us.”

On adjusting to COVID and contact tracing on the team…

“Every day we’re going to do what it takes as far as who may be out or whatever changes may come up. We do what it takes to get the things done that we need to get done in order to prepare ourselves for the first game.”

On first impressions of Ty Chandler and Eric Gray before arriving at UT…

“You can tell a lot of things on tape, but you can’t tell everything. I think the biggest thing I noticed before seeing them in person was that you could tell there was a lot of athletic ability and speed. It’s been a joy being around these guys. We’ve been through an adverse situation and we’ve almost gotten to know each other more because of that. They’ve prepared and worked hard through every kind of situation they’ve had to deal with. I’m really impressed by those young men. They’ve done what they’re supposed to do to lead.”

On coaching Ty Chandler, a senior player, and improving his game…

“I think you always have to do that. That’s what I’ve discussed with him and you always have to be like a freshman and try to learn as much as possible to get your game where you want it to be. It was important to me to ask him what he wanted and how he wanted this to go. I think that’s the key, is him having trust in me and knowing I have his best interest at heart. I really feel like Ty (Chandler) has done a great job and he’s really focused on what it takes to win. I think winning and playing well is very important to him, so we’ve worked on those things. Just understanding how we do this based on the situation or whatever it may be. Those are the No. 1 goals for us.”

On getting the running backs more involved in the passing game…

“I think the first thing you have to understand of the whole concept is that it’s not just your route. It’s what all the other guys are doing. You have to know it. In Jim’s (Chaney) offense there’s a lot of different things conceptually that you have to understand. Those guys have done a great job. I told them you have to study if you want to get the ball in a passing game. You have to be in the right position. You have to be where the quarterback expects you to be. They’ve really worked hard at that and how to adjust based on the coverage and all the things that you get faced with outside of the box. Those guys have done well with that, but we have to continue to get better and continue to work on it.”

On the difference between playing at UT and coaching running backs at UT…

“I would probably say what Jimmy just mentioned, the game has changed. We used to line up and dot the I, and we were probably more progressive than others as far as getting the ball to the backs, which helped me in coaching. We used to be I (formation) football, inside the box, 10-yard fight, you know? We would run the ball 60 times and that’s all we did, but now it’s changed. As a running back, you’re the fifth receiver or you may be the No. 1 receiver out there, so you have to really understand the route concepts and how to get the ball. How many times can you get the ball? How many touches you can get you in order to make plays and help the offense?

On if the running back position has changed in the last few years due to the impact of players such as Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey…

“It has. Also, that’s why I say we do more than any other position. We got to be able to pass protect and run block with the quarterbacks running the ball more. There are so many different things that come up. That’s the key. Being able to move around and be adjustable in that way.”

On what he’s seen from freshmen Tee Hodge and Jabari Small…

“Both of those guys are more mature than the average freshman. I told them that they have to be while dealing with this type of year. It’s unprecedented. You have to really make sure you’re ready and prepared because we can’t treat you like freshmen. We have to demand that you play at a certain level and those guys have really taken that to heart and worked hard. I told them just not to have the typical freshman issues. You have to really grow up right now. Those guys are working hard and studying. They’re listening to the older guys and trying to do things like they do. It’s really been a big help. Jabari is a talented young man. He can do those things that we discussed. Tee also has great ball skills and he’s a bigger guy which helps. Both of those guys have really worked hard.”

On being at his alma mater and working with Jeremy Pruitt and Philip Fulmer…

“First off, I’ve always had a love for Tennessee and what it’s meant to me. It’s more than just football. It’s the university and what this area means. There was not a better place for me as far as when I was 17, 18, 19 years old coming into this campus. It developed me into the type of man I needed to be to go out into the world. I chose football because of my coaches. I chose to be a football coach because of the men that coached me and helped me grow. That was something that I really wanted to do, and I was fortunate. I am fortunate to have this opportunity to do this at Tennessee. This is always a place that I envisioned myself coaching. It’s a blessing to have that opportunity. I’ve been a lot of places, but there’s no place like Tennessee. There’s no place like it. I’m excited about the opportunity.”

On the challenges of missing players due to COVID…

“The way you solve it is guys just stepping up and being ready to go. You have to stay ready and study up. You can’t sit there and think, ‘I’m third string’ and be sad about it, because the next day you could be the starter. You have to prepare yourself every single day. We always say that you have to stay ready. You can’t get ready. You have to stay ready and be waiting on your opportunity because it could come.”

On adjusting to missing players in special teams and improving special teams…

“I think the biggest thing that I’ve been talking about is that everybody has to be ready. There may be guys that have to understand more than one position. That happens a lot in the NFL and that’s what these young men are training to do. We’re giving that teaching right now. You have to be prepared. You have to pay attention to what’s going on. Being flexible is also important. Guys have been flexible and understand the situation that were dealing with. They’ve done a great job on the team of doing that. I think that’s the key challenge for us and the whole staff. (Jeremy) Pruitt has done a great job of being really involved in that and is talking about where we can put guys and where is the best place for guys to be in order to help the team. The freshmen have done a great job of working hard to do that. That’s the challenge. Making sure we put guys in the right position and making sure we’re always on top of the depth chart. I think we discuss that about half the time. Where are we going to place guys and making sure they get trained correctly.”

On Eric Gray’s ceiling and where he can improve…

“That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to find that ceiling. I told him every single day to go to practice and work hard. He’s done that. He’s a very smart young man. That’s the first thing. If you’re going to be able to do all these different things, you have to have the intelligence to understand. You have to have the recall to know what’s going on. He’s a very intelligent young man. It’s always been good as far as him studying up and understanding different concepts. He’s talented, he’s elusive, he’s got toughness. He wants to win. I don’t know what the limit is. He doesn’t know what the limit is. He needs to work to find that and work as hard as he possibly can and see how far he can go.”

-UT Athletics

Blogs

Weather

  • Forecast
  • Currents
  • Planner