South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier yells at running backs coach Madre Hill, left, and assistant quarterbacks coach David Reaves, right , as South Carolina and Kentucky players got involved in a scuffle during the fourth quarter against Kentucky, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2005, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina won 44-16. (AP Photo/Perry Baker)
KNOXVILLE -- David Reaves had a good job.
The 30-year-old coached quarterbacks under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. He was the recruiting coordinator of a Southeastern Conference program that engineered one of the nation's top 10 signing classes in 2007, when Rivals.com listed him among the nation's top 25 recruiters.
He accomplished that in Columbia, S.C., the same city where he attended high school.
"It was a good job, a very good job," Reaves said.
But it became his old job in December, when he left the Gamecocks to coach quarterbacks at Tennessee.
Reaves said the decision was far from a no-brainer. He'd cultivated professional and personal relationships throughout South Carolina. He'd coached quarterbacks under one of college football's most innovative offensive experts.
The son of former Florida and NFL quarterback John Reaves probably didn't need any more family support to continue climbing the college football coaching ladder.
But he couldn't pass up brother-in-law Lane Kiffin's plan to reunite the clan in Knoxville.
Kiffin -- who married Reaves' sister, Layla -- took UT's top position in December and immediately announced Reaves as his first hired assistant. Kiffin's father, legendary NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, joined the staff months later.
"It wasn't easy (leaving South Carolina), but working for a nationally known program like Tennessee and being with my family in a business like this ... you just can't pass up an opportunity like that," Reaves said.
Kiffin's decision to offer Reaves the job didn't sound as difficult as his brother-in-law's response.
"David is a young guy, but like me he's been around football at a high level his whole life," Kiffin said. "The bottom line is he knows what it takes. He knows the game, he knows how to recruit and he knows how hard you have to work to be successful at this level, as a player and a coach."
Reaves started for parts of three seasons at NCAA Division I FCS powerhouse Appalachian State. Despite splitting repetitions with the more mobile Daniel Jeremiah, Reaves -- a team captain -- still ranks in ASU's top 10 with 3,212 passing yards, 254 completions and a near-59 percent completion rate. He helped the Mountaineers to three consecutive playoff appearances.
He also orchestrated wins at Wake Forest in 1998 and 2000, and he completed 22 of 36 passes for 196 yards in a last-minute, 22-15 loss at Auburn in 1999. The Tigers needed a 33-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds left to avoid overtime against ASU.
The challenge now is translating that playing savvy into teaching techniques. UT's quarterbacks certainly need a boost after last season's string of poor performances.
UT was 104th out of 119 major DI programs last season with 145.8 passing yards per game. The Vols were 111th with 17.3 points per game, 115th with 268.7 offensive yards per game and 116th with 14.3 first downs per game. They were 107th in passing efficiency, 96th in third-down percentage, 92nd in red-zone offense and 98th in time of possession.
The Vols threw eight touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
"No one expects this to happen at a place like Tennessee," then-junior quarterback Jonathan Crompton said near the end of last season.
"Obviously, the guys think they should have played better last year," Reaves said. "But that's last year, and it doesn't have anything to do with right now. Everyone got a clean slate when we came here, and we're just focusing on what we need to do to win games this year."
The Vols have blanketed the country in search of quarterback prospects, but the immediate task at hand is repairing Crompton and junior Nick Stephens. Sophomore B.J. Coleman's transfer to UT-Chattanooga left just two scholarship quarterbacks on campus, and neither kept momentum very long during last season's carousel of carnage.
But Crompton and Stephens spoke this spring like players who bought into the new staff's optimistic swagger.
"(Reaves) knows what he's talking about, and he knows what he wants us to do," Crompton said. "You can just tell he knows the game and loves coaching, because he's got so much energy every day. I think being a younger guy helps him have all that energy, and I think it helps him relate to us a little better."
Added Stephens, who missed most of spring practice with a wrist injury: "Last year wasn't fun for anybody, but that's in the past now. It has to be. We can't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, and these coaches are helping us with that. We're all looking forward to the future."