When running backs coach David Johnson left Tennessee to join Florida State’s staff, it eliminated UT’s biggest connection to Memphis.
Johnson coached two seasons at Memphis under Mike Norvell and made plenty of connections in the area. Those connections were key in Tennessee’s ability to land five players from Memphis in their 2020 recruiting class.
Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt recently hired former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long to his staff as an analyst. Long coached at Memphis in 2016, so he would seemingly provide a strong Memphis connection for Tennessee (though he wouldn’t be an on-the-road recruiter).
While Long could be important for the Vols’ connection to Memphis, he’s not Tennessee’s most important “Memphis recruiter” in Knoxville.
That would be running back Eric Gray, who just finished his true freshman season at Tennessee.
Gray is a charismatic kid from Memphis who is close with a lot of recruits from the area.
2022 defensive back Cameron Miller, for example, is friends with Gray and recently visited Tennessee.
Vol legacy Dallas Hayden, also a member of the 2022 recruiting class, is another Memphis native who is friends with Gray and has recently visited Tennessee.
Having Gray on campus to hang out with recruits from Memphis could be huge in Tennessee’s efforts to dominate the western part of the state.
The Vols definitely have a Memphis flair to the roster now that wasn’t present in previous years.
In order to compete for SEC East division titles, Tennessee will have to land elite talent from Memphis. There’s just not a good road map to win winning in the SEC East without the Vols owning Memphis.
Eric Gray’s emergence as a key player for Tennessee, combined with his outgoing personality and Memphis connections, could actually make him one of the Vols’ most important recruiters over the next couple of seasons.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports/Rivals