The Florida Gators didn’t go long without a cornerbacks coach. And the man tabbed for the job is a familiar face, too.
Torrian Gray, who worked for the Gators for a year under Jim McElwain and played for Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham at Virginia Tech, is headed back to Gainesville to work under Grantham and Dan Mullen, Florida announced Monday evening.
“Obviously, Torrian brings a high level of familiarity with our program and the Southeastern Conference,” Coach Mullen said. “His track record of preparing players for the NFL and his success coaching at that level speaks for itself. Meanwhile, with his strong recruiting ties to the state of Florida and the fact that he played for Coach Grantham in college will make this transition seamless.”
That effusive praise sounds a lot like what McElwain said about Gray when he hired him away from Virginia Tech in 2016.
“We’re excited to have Torrian join the Gator family,” said head coach Jim McElwain.
Anyway, one genuine similarity between the two Gray hirings is that the guy being hired is a coach with a rock-solid rep as both developer and recruiter of talent. Gray helped mold Kam Chancellor and Kyle and Kendall Fuller while at Virginia Tech, improved Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson (among others) in his only season at Florida, and helped make a Washington secondary made of a lot of misfit parts — including former Gators wideout Quinton Dunbar — one of the NFL’s stingiest in 2017.
Quoting from Scott Carter’s release on Gray’s hiring:
In his first season in Washington in 2017, Gray’s defensive backs helped produce the team’s strongest season against the pass in nearly a decade. The unit ranked third in the NFL in completion percentage allowed (57.6 percent), the team’s best ranking since leading the NFL in the category in 2005 (54.4), while finishing ninth in passing yards allowed per game (213.8, the team’s lowest since 2009) and 10th in opponent passer rating (81.0, lowest since 2008).
Washington was closer to a middle-of-the-pack defense in 2018, with an injury bug biting hard — Dunbar would finish the season on injured reserve — and leading to the eventual turnover of much of the team’s defensive staff, Gray seemingly included.
But Gray now gets to once more recruit for a home-state team in and around his Polk County stomping grounds. And while he went to Lakeland’s Kathleen High — alma mater of Ray Lewis — rather than Lakeland High, it is likely that he and tight ends coach Larry Scott will form a dynamic duo of recruiters of the area.
And given how Marco Wilson — who notably shaded outgoing cornerbacks coach Charlton Warren after his departure for Georgia on Saturday — reacted to Gray’s hiring...
...it would seem like a good bet that Florida’s current players are going to be excited to be coached by him, as well.