Tennessee running back Eric Gray was able burst onto the scene late during his freshman campaign last year, earning 4 touchdowns and 366 yards over his last two match-ups of the season against Vanderbilt and Indiana. Due to the strong finish of his debut on Rocky Top, many expect the Memphis native to bring the momentum he has racked up into his sophomore season.
Cole Cubelic, an analyst for ESPN and on-the-field reporter for the SEC Network, is one of many who expects big things from Gray during the 2020 season, as he ranked Gray among his top 5 most likely players in the SEC to have a breakout year on the offensive side of the ball. Cubelic listed Arik Gilbert, a former 5-star recruit and LSU freshman, as the most likely to breakout, followed by Arkansas’ Treylon Burks and Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez. Gray is then listed at No. 4, followed by Alabama’s Darrian Dalcourt at No. 5.
Gray has been getting attention for the Vols throughout the entire offseason, as he has been named to the Doak Walker Award Preseason watchlist, in addition to being added to Athlon Sports’ All-SEC 4th team. The freshman also received the MVP award from the Vols’ victory over Indiana in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, as he was a major factor in helping the Vols squeak past the Hoosiers in the final stretch of the game. The former 4-star recruit was able to recover a surprise on-side kick when the Vols needed it the most, and scored a go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes of the match-up which would later prove to be the game-winning play.
As a recruit, Gray had the opportunity to attend a multitude of programs, but ultimately the decision came down to two universities: Michigan and Tennessee. Gray had been committed to the Wolverines throughout his senior season, but ended up backing out of his pledge on December 1st — committing to the Vols just over two weeks later.
Gray’s sophomore season is currently scheduled to begin on September 5th in Neyland Stadium against the Charlotte 49ers; however, it is becoming increasingly likely that the SEC will make modifications to the season due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The SEC is under intense pressure from the Big Ten and PAC-12 to move towards a conference-only schedule, and if they chose to do that, then Gray’s first game of his sophomore season would be against the Florida Gators in Knoxville.