Tennessee football: Is Eric Gray Vols’ next superstar?

What makes Tennessee football Volunteers running back Eric Gray so special?

Before the 2020 Tennessee football season began, head coach Jeremy Pruitt announced to the media that running back Tim Jordan was no longer part of the team. Many questions surfaced around how Eric Gray would transition into sharing carries alongside senior Ty Chandler.

Gray’s memorable performances at the end of 2019 against the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Indiana Hoosiers hinted that the Memphis native would be up to the challenge. He set a true freshman school record with 246 yards against Vandy. Then he had over 100 yards from scrimmage, recovered the onside kick and scored the game-winning touchdown in the Gator Bowl.

So how has he done this year so far? Well, after two strong weeks against the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Missouri Tigers, Tennessee football fans and coaches are happy to see Gray taking the opportunity – and quite literally running with it.

Heading into Week 6 against the Georgia Bulldogs, Gray has already amassed a stellar 145 yards on the ground and two scores, along with 44 receiving yards and another touchdown. The two rushing touchdowns are already half of what he logged last season, and the one receiving touchdown ties his mark from freshman year.

Last week, the sophomore phenom did something no other running back has done at UT since Alvin Kamara donned the orange and white. He had a rushing and receiving touchdown. Even the SEC Network took note of Gray’s ability to find the checkerboards.

Kamara wasn’t the only elite VFL company that Gray joined with Saturday’s performance. He also became the first Tennessee football player to reach the end zone while running the ball in four straight games since former quarterback Joshua Dobbs did it in 2016, and Dobbs took notice.

Both players just mentioned are now on NFL rosters, another milestone that Gray is likely reaching for. Under Butch Jones, Kamara was either playing behind or sharing carries with then running back Jalen Hurd. An NFL Rookie of the Year Award and a massive contract with the New Orleans Saints suggests maybe he should’ve been given the ball more during his time on Rocky Top.

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That’s not the case here for Gray. With offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, the Vols have an efficient running game sharing the ball between him and SEC-leading rusher Ty Chandler. This being Chandler’s last year of eligibility, the top dog in Tennessee football’s backfield next year will be wearing No. 3. Vol fans, savor this player. The future is very bright for this young man.