Dan Fleser: Running Back Eric Gray Catches The Eye Of Coach Pruitt

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 - by Dan Fleser
Eric Gray
Eric Gray

KNOXVILLE – Eric Gray has caught the eye of Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt for all the right reasons.

Pruitt described the freshman running back from Memphis as a quick learner who has good skills, good vision and competes.

“He jumps out there and is very mature when it comes to football-playing abilities,” Pruitt said.

He offered this assessment last Saturday, when he met with the media following practice. Pruitt’s review pertained to Gray’s work in practice. He punctuated his observations with the following caveat: “we’ll see how he does when we get over to the stadium.”

The reference was to a closed scrimmage on Sunday at Neyland Stadium. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Gray jumped out there as well, at least in one instance, running for a touchdown, according to a report by 247Sports.

Pruitt’s post-scrimmage view on Tuesday was more measured in tone regarding Gray.

“He’s like a lot of the guys, he has flashes,” Pruitt said. “…He’s got to be more consistent.”

In that sense, Gray is like several other freshmen who have made good first impressions but have only begun to flesh out their profiles.

Here’s a look at several others in the context of their position group.       

Linebacker: Pruitt has been especially lavish in his appraisal of Henry To’o To’o, describing him even more so than Gray in a manner befitting a veteran player. 

“Henry is a guy who things have come real easy for him,” Pruitt said. “He picks things up, instinctive, can cover, fits the runs, is what you’re looking for in a linebacker. He’s pretty advanced for a young guy at that position. He is capable of being a signal caller. He is a guy who can play all three downs.

To’o To’o (6-2, 232) projects as an inside linebacker. Fellow freshmen Quavaris Crouch (6-1, 246) and Roman Harrison (6-2, 234) are working on the outside. Crouch’s ongoing adjustment hasn’t diminished his zeal for being physical.

“He’s another guy whose motor is always running and he’s flying around,” Pruitt said. “Lots of times, he’s not doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing. But he’s a playmaker.

Offensive line: Freshman Wanya Morris (6-4, 313), who was an early enrollee, is staking a competitive claim to the starting spot at left tackle.

Fellow first year lineman Darnell Wright (6-6, 330), who didn’t arrive until preseason practice, is playing from behind in terms of familiarity. Nonetheless, he’s in the mix on the right side of the line.

“When he knows what to do, you can see the ability and he flashes that,” Pruitt said. “We just have to be patient with him, have realistic expectations and give the kid a chance to develop as a player.”

Quarterback:  Freshman Brian Maurer is contending with redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout for the backup spot behind Jarrett Guarantano. Like Shrout, Pruitt indicated that Maurer is throwing too many interceptions in practice. Maurer’s ability to run, though, is a distinguishing characteristic.

“(Mauer) can run around really well,” Pruitt said. “Probably when the play breaks down, he can extend and hurt you a little bit with his feet there.”

Summing it up: Pruitt’s take on freshman cornerback Warren Burrell likely could’ve applied to all of the aforementioned freshmen.

“Warren has done a good job,” Pruitt said. “Does he need to get stronger? Absolutely. But has good ball skills. He’s smart, he’s coachable, he plays with toughness.

Is he perfect? No, but he’s a freshman. Nobody is. I’m glad he’s here. We have good competition there, and we need it.”

 Notebook: Linebacker Jordan Allen has undergone surgery to repair a sports hernia and is out indefinitely, Pruitt said. … Defensive back Baylen Buchanan is being held out because of “a narrowing of the spine” condition, Pruitt said. Buchanan’s playing status is uncertain for the time being.

* * *

Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri who covered University of Tennessee athletics for the Knoxville News Sentinel from 1988-2019. He can be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com



Prep Scores - Week Of August 11, 2019

Report Your Team’s Scores To The Chattanoogan.com

PREP FOOTBALL Jamboree Schedule: At Finley Stadium SATURDAY, AUGUST 17 3:30 - Howard vs Copper Basin 4:00 - Cleveland vs Red Bank 4:30 - Howard vs Signal Mountain 5:00 - ... (click for more)

Submit your team results HERE Cross Country Football Girls Soccer Golf Volleyball Cross Country Back to Top Football ... (click for more)

Attention all area athletic directors, coaches and statisticians: The Chattanoogan.com now has an email address just for you to report your game and match scores. As our sports staff continues ... (click for more)



PREP FOOTBALL Jamboree Schedule: At Finley Stadium SATURDAY, AUGUST 17 3:30 - Howard vs Copper Basin 4:00 - Cleveland vs Red Bank 4:30 - Howard vs Signal Mountain 5:00 - East Ridge vs Copper Basin 5:30 - Walker Valley vs Red Bank 6:00 - Sale Creek vs Signal Mountain 6:30 - Walker Valley vs McMinn County 7:00 - Brainerd vs McMinn County 7:30 - Brainerd ... (click for more)

Prep Scores - Week Of August 11, 2019

Submit your team results HERE Cross Country Football Girls Soccer Golf Volleyball Cross Country Back to Top Football Back to Top Girls Soccer Back to Top Golf Girls' Golf Sale Creek 79, Soddy Daisy 82 Back to Top Volleyball ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Man, 44, Stabbed To Death On East Main Street

Chattanooga Police said a 44-year-old man died after being stabbed in the 1200 block of East Main Street around midnight Thursday. Upon arrival, officers located a man suffering from a stab wound. Hamilton County EMS responded and transported the victim to a local hospital. Officers secured the scene and called for the Violent Crimes Bureau to respond. Investigators ... (click for more)

Gary Cross, 23, Is 4th Suspect Arrested In Shooting Death Of Tracy Calloway On July 21

On Friday a fourth suspect, Gary Cross, 23, was arrested on outstanding warrants in relation to the July 21, 2019 shooting which occurred in the 4600 block of Trailwood Drive. The victim from that shooting, Tracy Calloway succumbed to injuries sustained from that shooting on July 22. The arrest of Cross is a result of an extensive investigation by the CPD Homicide Unit. ... (click for more)


Good Sports Bar News

Just had dinner Tuesday night at Jonathan's Grille location in Hendersonville, Tn. When in Murfreesboro or Nashville, it's one of my favs. Just a great sports bar concept and menu. So happy to hear the Revelette brothers are bringing their brand (and their pizza night) to the old 212 Market location in downtown Chattanooga. Bring it on! Garry Mac (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

As I stood in the checkout line of the Walmart in Tiftonia this week, my newest friend named Harold asked me, “What’s the difference between an outlaw and an in-law. As I searched my mind, Harold responded, “Outlaws are wanted!” I immediately accepted his joke as a good omen. It helps me to remind readers of The Saturday Funnies, I just collect them during the week and pass them ... (click for more)