Gray grows up fast

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One Tennessee football commitment is maturing emotionally at an even faster rate than he is physically. That would be cornerback Daniel Gray of Boyd Anderson High in Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.

Gray is a 6-foot, 180-pounder who is "still growing," according to Boyd Anderson head man Wayne Blair. Gray is growing up especially fast in terms of his familial responsibilities, which should help prepare him for anything college life might throw at him during the next four years.

"As of this year he had to grow up," Blair told InsideTennessee by phone. "Daniel had a daughter this past summer. So, while most kids are worrying about the prom and the other things teenagers do, he's worrying about being a father and providing for his family."

That maturity should serve Gray well at Tennessee next fall, given the ups and downs that go with playing defensive back at the collegiate level. In addition, he has all of the physical skills recruiters prize in their cornerbacks.

"His speed and range are very good," Blair said. "His man-to-man capabilities are very good and he has a very good IQ for defense. His God-given track foot speed is going to take him a long way. The last camp he attended he ran a 4.37 (in the 40-yard dash) with a little hip injury at the time."

Judging high school defensive backs is tricky because so few of them face quality passing attacks. That is not the case for Daniel Gray. Playing in talent-rich Florida, he has seen a little of everything.

"This past year we played the No. 3 team in the country, Miramar," Blair noted. "And we faced teams that run variations of the spread and the run-and-shoot, some wing-T, plus some pro-style. Daniel did well in coverage in man and zone, although his specialty is man."

Gray may have the skills to become a lock-down cornerback at the collegiate level.

"His man-to-man capabilities are very good," Blair said. "And he's only getting better. He works hard, and I definitely pushed him to a limit that not every young man could endure."

The coach didn't have his team's 2011 stats handy but said Gray recorded "around 30 tackles and a bunch of pass breakups" as a senior this fall. The coach said Gray managed just one interception but that the total would have been a lot higher except that "Not many teams threw his way."

One team that tried provided a memory that Blair will not soon forget.

"We were playing Northeast, and Daniel broke on a ball that the average kid couldn't get to," the coach recalled. "His closing speed allowed him to break the pass up, and that was fascinating."

When Blair took the reins at Boyd Anderson High last summer he found one area of Gray's game seriously lacking.

"I watched film on him as soon as I got here, and he was timid in run support," the coach said. "His run support has gotten much better. Now he comes up, sticks his nose in there and forces things back."

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