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Eric Gray named one of ten ‘players to watch’ for 2020

Will he be the lead back?

NCAA Football: Georgia State at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

After a 246 yard performance to close the season, the hype train is officially rolling for Tennessee running back Eric Gray. The freshman was not a part of the regular rotation in the Tennessee backfield, but that probably won’t be the case going forward.

Gray played behind both Tim Jordan and Ty Chandler, but an injury forced the staff’s hand against Vanderbilt. As the game went on, they didn’t dare pull him out of that game. That record-breaking performance has him on the national radar for 2020.

247Sports named Gray as one of ten players to watch nationally for next season. Names like Oklahoma’s Jadon Haselwood, USC’s Kedon Slovis, Clemson’s Amari Rodgers and Ohio State’s Master Teague were also on the list.

The former four-star, top 100 prospect will return to the exact same situation next year, barring any unforeseen departures. Tennessee also added three potential running backs in Tee Hodge, Jabari Small and Len’Neth Whitehead. But Jordan and Chandler are set to return.

How will Jim Chaney juggle that rotation? Will he let Gray be the guy? Tennessee seemed to go with whoever impressed during that week of practice, which down the stretch turned out to be Jordan on most weeks.

But Gray has something that nobody else on the roster does. His ability to make defenders miss is special and you saw it from game No. 1 this year. He took runs that would be losses by any other back on the roster and turned them into two or three yard gains. Those are the type of runs that don’t really show up on the statsheet, but make a difference in the course of a game.

I’d like to see Gray getting more involved in space, starting as soon as January 2nd against Indiana. Hopefully we get another extended look at Gray in Jacksonville.