Torrian Gray helped foster the "DBU" moniker that Virginia Tech has touted over the last decade.
Now the Hokies must move on without one of their best defensive assistants. Groomed by defensive coordinator Bud Foster not only as a player but as a coach, Gray decided to leave his alma mater just after national signing day, landing a job as defensive backs coach at Florida. Of all the coaching changes that have happened across the ACC, Gray is the longest-tenured assistant to move on to another job of his own accord.
While the news might have seemed a little jarring, given the timing, new coach Justin Fuente said he was not surprised with the decision -- even though Gray agreed in December to stay on staff.
"I don’t want to put words in Torrian’s mouth, but I think it’s an opportunity he’s excited about to move back home," Fuente said in a recent phone interview. "Obviously, Virginia Tech is special to him, but I think he’s got a lot of aspirations in this business. A chance to seek a little more responsibility maybe, all while moving back close to home, was probably more than he could pass up. Certainly understand that. We want to celebrate his time here and thank him for a job well done and in the same respect let everybody in Hokie Nation know we’re going to hire a fantastic guy to come in here and coach the defensive backs and recruit well for Virginia Tech."
Gray grew up in Lakeland, Florida, about two hours away from the University of Florida. Getting a chance to be closer to home with perhaps an opportunity to become a defensive coordinator one day makes sense. But there also were reports that Gray would be in line to take a pay cut this season under Fuente. In the news release announcing his departure, Gray said in a statement, "This wasn’t about dollars and cents or anything else. Virginia Tech made me a very generous offer to stay, but this was simply a career opportunity and chance to return home to my Florida roots that my family couldn’t pass up."
Gray has been instrumental in guiding the Hokies' secondary over the last decade, coaching five All-Americans and 10 NFL draft picks. The Hokies will have another drafted in a few months after Kendall Fuller decided to leave school early.
Fuente already has a few candidates in mind and wants Foster's input in the hire. With assistants on vacation this week, Fuente said he will really begin the process of nailing down the new hire next week.
"I have some pretty clear things I want to make sure we get out of the hire," Fuente said. "I have just three or four criteria that I’m really looking for. I’m confident we’ll be able to fill that. I’m not going to tell everybody all the things I’m looking for, but one of them is I want Bud Foster to be comfortable with whomever that is. Once everybody gets back, we’ll identify some people and talk to them and make a decision sooner rather than later."