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

 


Covenant Men 10th, Women 26th At NCAA Regional

Lady Flames Volleyball Falls In Five Sets To Union

Lee Women Advance To Gulf South Soccer Championship


Brendan Yeager placed 35th overall to earn All-Region honors and lead the Covenant men's cross country team to a 10th place finish, while the women finished 26th, at the NCAA South/Southeast ... (click for more)

The Lee University volleyball team received 18 kills from Quinne Daoust and Bailey Kress, but it wasn’t enough as the Lady Flames lost 3-2 to Union University Friday evening. The Lady Flames ... (click for more)

The Lee women’s soccer team will be making its third trip over the last five years to the Gulf South Conference championship game. The Lady Flames advanced late Friday evening with a hard-fought ... (click for more)


Sports

Covenant Men 10th, Women 26th At NCAA Regional

Brendan Yeager placed 35th overall to earn All-Region honors and lead the Covenant men's cross country team to a 10th place finish, while the women finished 26th, at the NCAA South/Southeast Regional meet on Saturday at Shelby Farms in Memphis. It was the second straight year that the Covenant men placed in the top 10. The Scots tied with Trinity (Texas) for 10th, but earned ... (click for more)

Lady Flames Volleyball Falls In Five Sets To Union

The Lee University volleyball team received 18 kills from Quinne Daoust and Bailey Kress, but it wasn’t enough as the Lady Flames lost 3-2 to Union University Friday evening. The Lady Flames (9-21, 2-13 GSC) claimed the opening set 25-22 before Union (19-11, 11-4) evened the score with a 25-23 margin in the second set. Lee collected a 25-21 win in the third set to take a 2-1 ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Worker Stuck In Boom High In The Trees Climbs Safely Down Ladder To Shorter Bucket

Firefighters and EPB crews helped a worker stuck in an extended boom truck high up in the trees on Friday night. Quint 13, Engine 15 and Battalion 2 were dispatched to 1001 Woodmore Terrace at 6 p.m. They found a tree service boom truck extended with the business owner in the bucket. He had two helpers with him trying to find a way to get him down. Firefighters ... (click for more)

Funeral Will Be Tuesday For East Ridge Man Who Died In House Fire

The funeral service will be Tuesday for a 62-year-old East Ridge man who died in a house fire on Thursday. James Fred "Freddy" Robertson died after being taken to a hospital. Lisa Crowe, 62, was in critical condition. East Ridge Firefighters responded at approximately 10:39 p.m. to 1302 Adonna Lane. Upon arrival heavy smoke and fire was coming from a single-story residence. ... (click for more)

Opinion

Tubman TIF - Not Yet Ready For Prime Time

A wise man once wrote that reading about tax increment financing is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Yes, it is boring, but it is important that the city use this tool wisely to create economic development opportunities and to build community trust. On Thursday, Nov. 14, at 11 a.m., the Industrial Development Board (IDB) will hold a public hearing regarding a proposed ... (click for more)

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com; Include Your Full Name, Address, Phone Number For Verification

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. This includes your home address and phone number. We do not post the contact information, but need it for verification. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues ... (click for more)