Returning Player Profile: Eric Gray
Volunteer Country Staff
Player Profile: Eric Gray
Jersey Number: 3
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
High School: Lausanne High School
Fans of the University of Tennessee are familiar with Eric Gray because of his break-out games against Vanderbilt and Indiana at the end of the 2019-20 season. He was named MVP of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl after recovering an onside kick when the Vols' chances seemed to be all but dead, followed by a rushing touchdown that gave Tennessee the lead as they entered the final stages of the game.
As a result of his strong performance towards the end of the season, Gray — along with senior Ty Chandler — are expected to take a major step forward in 2020, with a much stronger offensive line creating holes for them to work their magic. Gray is considered one of the best young players in the SEC, and if he can improve this season, he may find himself in competition for some national honors in the near future.
As A Recruit
Prior to enrolling at the University of Tennessee, Gray was an extremely hot commodity on the recruiting trail — earning offers from Alabama, Texas A&M, Louisville, Stanford, and many others. However, the decision for Gray came down to two schools: the University of Michigan, where he had been committed for the last 5 months, and the University of Tennessee, which was his beloved homestate school.
Gray ultimately chose Tennessee, decommitting from Michigan exactly 5 months after committing to Jim Harbaugh originally, and stunning fans of the Wolverines who were looking forward to watching the talented young speedster play in Ann Arbor.
Michigan supporters were reasonably upset with Gray after he flipped to Tennessee, as they lost out on one of the nation’s top talents. Gray was rated as a 4-star recruit by 247Sports, in addition to being ranked as the 3rd best player at his position, and 5th best in the state of Tennessee.
National recruiting analysts across the country praised Gray during his recruitment, including Barton Simmons — the director of scouting for 247Sports. “Athletic-framed back with limited size but good strength for someone in the ‘all-purpose’ mold. One of the most productive backs in the history of Tennessee HS football showing durability and consistency. Sufficient long speed but excellent burst and short area quickness. Very good instincts with the football,” wrote Simmons. “Dynamic back in the right offense that can be a multi-year impact starter at a Power five program and an early round NFL Draft pick.”
As A Player
Gray’s first season as a Volunteer didn’t start off like he — or anybody else — thought it would, as Tennessee lost to Georgia State in their opening match-up, Brigham Young the following week, Florida two weeks later, in addition to Georgia in week 5. In fact, the Vols’ only victory in their first 5 games came against the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in their third match-up.
Gray didn’t see a lot of action during the first half of the season, but did earn his first career start on the road in the Commonwealth taking on the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Gray would then have an unreal finish to his season — absolutely humiliating both Vanderbilt and Indiana in the final 2 games of the year, rushing for 366 yards against the two. He finished the season with 539 rushing yards and led the Vols’ running back room in touchdowns with 5. He also earned 115 yards and a touchdown through the air, making him the kind of multi-threat back that defensive coordinators hate to face.
As for what will come next for the young running back during his sophomore season, you can expect him to see much more carries than he did as a freshman. Following the departure of Tim Jordan, Gray will have a much less competitive running back room — only splitting carries with senior Ty Chandler — so you can be sure to expect many more opportunities for the young player as we enter year three of the Jeremy Pruitt era in Knoxville.