The departure of cornerback Daniel Gray, who briefly broke into Tennessee’s starting lineup as a true freshman in 2012, could aggravate the Vols’ lack of depth in the secondary.
“Daniel Gray is going to try to find an institution closer to home, and we wish him well,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Thursday.
Gray’s high school coach, Wayne Blair, said that Gray expects to be granted a full release after his final semester grades are posted.
“He should be able to go wherever he wants,” said Blair, who coached Gray at Boyd Anderson High in Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.
Gray missed some of spring practice with injury and wasn’t able to push for a starting job, so his loss presents no immediate concerns. But if injuries crop up in 2013, the Vols will have few experienced players to count on.
Senior Eric Gordon, the team’s top nickel back, missed nearly all of spring due to personal issues and is considered unlikely to return.
Without Gray and Gordon, UT should still have 13 defensive backs on the roster this fall, including two signees who have yet to enroll or practice.
But of that group, only five — Byron Moore, Justin Coleman, Jaron Toney, LaDarrell McNeil and Brian Randolph — have any meaningful college experience.
Of those five, only Coleman and Toney are true cornerbacks.
That means the Vols will count heavily on junior college transfer Riyahd Jones, who is likely to earn one of the starting spots, and incoming freshmen Cameron Sutton and Malik Foreman.
Injuries or additional losses could make the
The good news is that coach Butch Jones and his staff have loaded up on receivers, defensive backs and hybrid “athletes” since their arrival, so reinforcements could help ease the depth crunch.
The Vols will lose only two seniors — Moore and seldom-used reserve Naz Oliver — to graduation after the 2013 season.
Gray’s departure further diminishes the Class of 2012, which was already the lowest ranked of the three recruiting classes former coach Derek Dooley signed at UT. Only 15 players remain from the group that signed 15 months ago.
Among the 2012 signees no longer on the team are Gray; running backs Davante Bourque and Quenshaun Watson; defensive back Deion Bonner and defensive linemen Trent Taylor, Darrington Sentimore and Omari Phillips. Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson left after one season for the NFL draft.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.