Utah State hoping for big things from corner Daniel Gray
After a year of being on the shelf, you need a little time to shake off the dust.
That's this spring for Daniel Gray, a cornerback who came to Utah State by way of Tennessee. After sitting out his required one year - a year that included toe surgery - he's working his way back on the football field. And although several in the program consider him to have sky-high potential, it's definitely a work in progress.
"When you sit out a whole year, you kind of lose some things," cornerbacks coach Kendrick Shaver said. "I'm talking about football shape and football movements. Shadowing receivers, things like that. It takes a little time to get that back."
If Gray has learned anything in the last year, it's patience. Not being able to play last fall was as difficult as anything he's ever had to do on the field.
"It was hard," he said. "I just stayed mentally focused. It gave me a little time to work ony my technique and get the playbook down and all that."
Gray entered the spring atop one of the corner spots on the depth chart, a move that reflects his competitiveness. Since coming to Utah State, in part because of the school's developing reputation for producing NFL-caliber corners, he's tried to act the part of one of the next in that tradition.
At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Gray has good if not great size. But his speed is what could really set him apart: He ran a 4.32 40-yard-dash at the Under Armour All-American camp in 2012. Utah State recruited him out of high school, it just took an extra year to get him.
"I see him as being one of the next best corners out of here," Shaver said. "I've got to remind myself the young man has only played one year of college football, as a true freshman. The potential is very, very high. He's a competitor and walks around with a chip on his shoulder, and the kid can run."
The tools are there. Time will tell how Gray puts them together.
He doesn't lack for motivation. One of his favorite situations is lining up against Jojo Natson, his high school teammate.
"We were very competitive in high school," he said. "We go at it all the time. We're both working on getting those starting positions."
Overall this spring, Utah State has shown some talent at cornerback. On Wednesday in practice, Devin Centers intercepted a pass to strike a blow for the secondary.
What the team doesn't have right now is depth. With several cornerback signees still on their way, Utah State's current players at the position are trying to hold on until the help arrives.
Well, that, and help themselves a little before the competition gets a little more fierce.
"We've signed three guys and we may get another guy this summer, so the depth will get here," Shaver said. "Now we've got guys who are getting reps who need them."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon