COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Gamecocks have had a rich history in producing defensive backs that have gone on to play at the next level.
The Gamecocks have had 29 defensive backs drafted in the NFL Draft. Of those, 14 have been selected since 2002. A few others have made NFL rosters without being drafted. But some might argue that rich tradition has fallen on hard times. The Gamecocks haven’t cracked the top 50 in terms of passing yards allowed since the 2016-17 season.
Furthermore, several of Carolina’s most experienced defensive backs have either declared for the 2021 NFL Draft or transferred out of the program.
Enter Torrian Gray.
“I’ve tried to familiarize myself with the guys, looked at who’s coming back and what plays did they have last year, and trying to get an idea from a talent assessment standpoint so we can move on.”
Gray won’t just have to develop the talent that’s already in house for the Gamecocks. He’ll have to find players that fit the mold of what he hopes to build under head coach Shane Beamer.
“We’re just trying to hit the ground running [with] recruiting,” Gray said. “Gotta recruit corners, gotta recruit safeties. You’ve got to fill in for the spots that have been voided and you’re trying to reach out and evaluate as much film as you can, get guys that already been offered, offered. You’re just trying to hit that thing running and connect with as many guys as possible and see what responses we’re getting back and go from there.”
Like most defensive back coaches, Gray said he’s looking for long, fast defensive backs who can make plays on the ball. Knowing the build that he’s looking for, the challenge will be to bring them in but he knows exactly what he’s looking for in a defensive back.
“Everybody’s going after those guys -- guys with intangibles, guys that love football, some other things that you look for. You’re kind of looking for certain traits, certain variables, and measurements to start off with.
Gray, who has more than two decades of coaching experience when it comes to teaching cornerbacks and safeties, spent the last two seasons with the Florida Gators. He also has NFL coaching experience after serving in the same role with the Washington Football Team. A product of Virginia Tech, which was known as DBU, Gray is looking forward to adding the defensive back tradition at Carolina and putting his stamp on the Gamecock defense with his knowledge.
“The biggest thing we have to do is you have to make sure that we’re all on the same page, we’re all working towards the same goal and that’s to be the best secondary in the country, best the best secondary in the SEC, set our goals high, but we need each other all on one accord and that’s the first line of business.
“You want to be that group back there because you can win and lose games by the plays you make or don’t make on that back end. Gotta be on the same page. Gotta believe in what you’re doing. Gotta believe in each other. Gotta be coached well and all those things. It’s so much that encompasses that group and that’s what we’re going to start doing here.”
Gray has received approval from former Gamecock defensive back DJ Swearinger, who believes the new Carolina defensive backs coach will bring the group back to prominence.
Gray believes what he’s done in previous stops will help him bring in and develop some of the country’s best players.
“The guys that you’ve got is all you can work with,” Gray said. “With the guys that we got, we’re gonna build confidence in those guys. That’s why I put on my Twitter handle #TheNewDBU.
You’ve got to come in and give who we’ve got and what we’re working with a certain mindset that we’re going to be as good as anybody in the country. We’ve just got to prepare and start with what we’ve got. We’ve got to work our tails off in the weight room. Once we start meeting, we’ve got to meet with a purpose and everything we do, it’s gotta be with a purpose.”