Well, that happened fast. Not long after reports began to break amongst Austin media outlets that former Seahawks DB coach Jerry Gray was going to be the next DB coach at Texas, the university issued a press release confirming the hire. Less than 24 hours after Duane Akina left for Arizona, the Longhorns filled his open position. Gray will hold the additional title of assistant head coach at Texas.
Gray is a former Longhorn player who has been vocal about wanting to return to Austin to join the Texas coaching staff for some time, but was passed over twice for the defensive coordinator position. Apparently Gray harbored no ill will towards Mack Brown for the decisions to hire Will Muschamp and then Manny Diaz and decided to make what can only be considered as a lateral move at best.
Gray was the defensive coordinator for the Bills from 2001-2005, achieving great success in that role, and even interviewed for the head coaching position there, so it's a surprise that he would be willing to accept the job as a DB coach in college. However, in the press release Gray contradicted that belief, saying that those he talked to around the NFL and college told him unequivocally to take the job at Texas.
Here's what Gray had to say about his move back to Texas:
This is truly an exciting opportunity for me and my family. Not very many guys get the chance to come back and coach where they played and to do that at a place that is as special as Texas. It's just an unbelievable opportunity. I've enjoyed getting to know Coach Brown, and I've been so proud watching everything they've been accomplishing since he took over, and to have a chance to be a part of that is a dream come true.
Like Akina, Gray is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL for his work with defensive backs, making his hire the type of feel-good move that can help put Longhorn fans at ease after the shock of Akina's depature. More importantly, to ensures a high level of coaching at the position and should help cement the commitments of 2011 prospects like Josh Turner, who will take his official visit to Austin on Friday and will know Texas has a coach with experience working at the highest level.
It's impossible to gush too much about just how strong of a hire this is for Texas -- Gray was clearly the top candidate available and it's easy to make the case that he was the perfect candidate with his ties to Texas and his experience in the NFL at the position coach and coordinator level. I typically try to avoid the type of analogies that occur so commonly in lazy writing, but Mack Brown hit this hire out of the ballpark.