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Jeremy Pruitt updates the status of freshman running back Eric Gray

Pruitt sounds impressed with Gray early on.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

One of the higher rated prospects in Tennessee’s 2019 class, running back Eric Gray is a candidate to contribute early as a Volunteer. The running back out of Memphis produced at a ridiculous pace in high school, taking home Tennessee’s Mr. Football trophy for three straight years.

Gray picked Tennessee this winter after backing off his Michigan pledge. He enrolled early in January, hoping to get acclimated with Tennessee’s new offense this spring. However, a shoulder surgery has limited him to this point on the field.

“It’s unfortunate for Eric,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said on Tuesday. “He had to have his shoulder fixed, but it’s a good thing we found out about it and got it fixed in January. He’ll be ready to go in May.”

The 5-10, 195 pound back ran for over 8,100 yards and 124 touchdowns during his high school career. Gray was a four-star recruit, landing at 99th overall in 247 Sports’ final rankings of the 2019 class.

“That’s a guy that’s a really good student,” Pruitt continued on Gray. “He’s done a nice job academically. He really has worked hard in the film room, learning assignments. You know, we’ve almost had to hold him back a little bit. He’s got plenty of football ahead of him. I know he’s chomping at the bit to get involved.”

Gray is expected to have a chance to crack the running back rotation this fall. That rotation already features Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan, likely along with Jeremy Banks as the big back. Tennessee had no problems playing four backs in 2018 and that should continue in 2019. You can even look to what Jim Chaney did at Georgia with Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield as an example.

Gray’s ability in the open field could earn him early opportunities to spell Chandler and Jordan. Regardless of position, Tennessee just needed some more guys that can make plays. Gray’s tape suggests he can be a guy like that, but we’ll have to wait until the fall to get our first glimpse.