GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Torrian Gray hasn’t had much time to enjoy his homecoming to Florida.
It’s been all work for the new Gators defensive backs coach since he arrived in Gainesville three weeks ago.
Gray, 41, spent the past 10 years coaching the secondary at Virginia Tech, his alma mater. But he couldn’t pass up the chance to return to his home state and be near his mother, three brothers and three sisters in Lakeland, Fla.
“When they showed interest,” Gray said, “I was ecstatic about that. It’s the University of Florida. It was an opportunity to leave Virginia Tech, a school that I love. To come home was just exciting to me.”
Gray said it took a job offer such as UF for him to even entertain being a secondary coach elsewhere. He inherits one of the nation’s best passing defenses, which features a potential first-round pick for 2017 in cornerback Jalen Tabor.
“I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen of him on film,” Gray said of Tabor. “I’ve had a chance to evaluate the secondary. We got here and hit the ground running and watched a lot of the cut-ups with the coaches. I kind of get to see who’s doing what.
“I’m very impressed with the top-end talent we have. We have to develop some depth there, but it’s pretty impressive the guys we do have coming back. I’m excited to start working with those guys.”
Spring practice will be somewhat of a challenge for Gray, who has to learn new coverage schemes under defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. Gray said his defensive backs at Virginia Tech primarily played man coverage, but the Gators run more zone under Collins.
“The scheme that we do here is almost a lot different from what we do at Virginia Tech,” Gray said. “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.
“I was very impressed with what the defensive staff was able to do last season and very impressed with how the secondary played.”
Gray brings a strong recruiting prowess to Florida. He has several ties throughout the state and relates well with prospects in his assigned areas. Gray has already put UF back in the running for an elite wide receiver from Lakeland.
“Being in the ACC, 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,” Gray said. “If I’m spot recruiting Florida, sometimes it does matter.
“I believe to kids, the University of Florida and being in the SEC, I think that brings a certain reputation with it alone. So having the Gator logo alone helps from that standpoint, a recruiting standpoint.”
Florida’s ‘DBU’ reputation is also a selling point for Gray, although his former school staked claim to the same nickname.
“I think you got three or four schools that call themselves ‘DBU,’ maybe more,” Gray said. “Virginia Tech was one of the schools that called themselves ‘DBU,’ Florida calls themselves ‘DBU,’ LSU, I hear Texas. I guess it’s whatever you think.
“We think we’re ‘DBU’ here at the University of Florida and we’re going to roll with that.”
— Nikko Tan (@TheNikkoTan) February 25, 2016