It seemed every year of his 10 years on campus at Virginia Tech Torrian Gray was coaching up All-Americans or multiple All-ACC selections. In 2011 all four of the starters in the Virginia Tech secondary were All-ACC award winners. Names like Victor Harris, Brandon Flowers, Kam Chancellor, Jayron Hosley, Kendall Fuller and Kyle Fuller were common place in Blacksburg.
So why leave?
“I always felt at Virginia Tech I had a great job as the defensive back coach,” new Florida defensive back coach Torrian Gray said on Thursday. “I loved working for Coach Beamer and Coach Foster. I always (asked), ‘would I leave Virginia Tech unless I had an opportunity to advance and just to be the defensive back coach somewhere else?’ It took a great opportunity like the University of Florida to come back home for me to really entertain that, and that’s kind of what happened.”
Gray attended Lakeland’s Kathleen High School before moving on Blacksburg for college. He has a lot of family back home in Lakeland.
“I have my mother, I’ve got three brothers and three sisters – seven,” he said. “It’s pretty neat to be able to be two-and-a-half hours away. We’ve got a 10-month-old my mom has not been around a lot, or my brothers and sisters. So, they’ll get to see her a lot more. They’re excited about that. I still have friends that are back home in Lakeland that are happy for me, and going to want some tickets I guess. It’s pretty good to be back.
“I just know when they showed an interest and I had an opportunity to have a chance to come here, I was ecstatic about that. Like I said, it’s the University of Florida, it was an opportunity to leave Virginia Tech, a school that I love, my Alma Mater. To come home to here was just exciting to me to have that opportunity.”
Having been at one program coaching for ten years and basically with the same coaching staff, it will be a new experience for him to learn what the Florida staff is all about. It is a thought he relishes.
“You know, it was obviously fortunate for me to be able to be with a guy like Coach Foster for 10 years; I learned a lot of football,” Gray said. “I have certain knowledge of how he did things and now it’s interesting to be able to come to a new staff. I hadn’t had a (big) relationship with Coach Collins, or Coach Rumph or Coach Shannon for the most part. Getting to know those guys the past couple weeks has been pretty neat. The scheme that we do here is a lot different from what we do at Virginia Tech. it’s exciting for me, I get to grow as a coach and get to learn Coach Collins’ scheme and what those guys are doing. It will be fun. I’m looking forward to it.”
Gray talked a little bit about the differences in the way the two defenses are coached.
"In basic terms at Virginia Tech, we kind of got into playing a lot of man coverage, almost every play,” he said. “Our zones were matchups. But you can only do so much in college football. You're either playing man or playing zone. From the concept and the way we did things is a little bit different than here.”
A major reason that Gray was brought on board at Florida was because of recruiting. You don’t have all of the All-American and all-conference players listed above without knowing a little bit about spotting talent and without the ability to get that talent to come to your program. Gray was often in Florida recruiting and in the Lakeland/ Tampa area pulling talent to Blacksburg and Florida head coach Jim McElwain wanted to take advantage of his prowess along the recruiting front.
Gray talked a little about how he does his thing on the recruiting trail and his main philosophy is something that hurt the gators this past January on a handful of prospects at the end of the recruiting cycle.
“It’s about building relationships, finding out who are the people that you really need to get close with and who’s important to the student-athlete that you’re recruiting,” he said. “You always want to try to get in and build a great relationship with the student-athlete and who’s going to be important to that student-athlete’s decision.”
The type of athlete he is looking for in the secondary is much like what Florida has been targeting actually for years and under two different coaching staffs now.
"We kind of gotten accustomed to playing a lot of man and I found out, over experience, longer guys are attracted to me… like tall guys, long guys,” he said. “So those are the kinds of guys that I try to recruit. I don't want to pass up a good player just because he's not tall. You kind of take what you like into account, obviously we want fast guys. You want guys with a football IQ so you kind of have your standards of what you would like and go from there."
Now Gray doesn’t have to go far from where he works to recruit a lot of the kids he will pursue in the process. He knows the University of Florida and the SEC has a lot of pull in this state.
“I believe to kids, the University of Florida and being in the SEC, I think that brings a certain reputation with it alone,” he said. “So having the Gator logo alone helps from that standpoint, a recruiting standpoint. So, I’m excited about that and having the opportunity to recruit a certain kind of student-athletes.
“From Virginia Tech or being in the ACC, and you come down to Georgia and it seems there was an awe or something about the SEC, an aura that you went up against sometimes. For some kids it didn’t matter, but for a lot of kids it did.
“Yes. It’ll be fun to see if that (SEC brand) works in our favor now.”
You can tell that Gray likes to have fun and wants his guys to carry a little swagger. The whole ‘DBU’ debate has been hot and heavy over the last few years about which program can call itself the best school in terms of history in the secondary. Gray wants his guys to believe in what they do and be the best.
“I think you’ve got three or four schools that call themselves DBU, maybe more,” he said. “Virginia Tech was one of the schools that called themselves DBU, Florida calls themselves DBU, LSU, and I hear Texas. I guess it’s whatever you think. We think we’re DBU hear at the University of Florida and we’re going to roll with that.”