Texas Football: 5 Reasons Johnathan Gray Will Be UT's Next Great RB
Roosevelt Leaks. Cedric Benson. Earl Campbell. Ricky Williams.
Those are the names of some of the greatest running backs in Texas Longhorns history, setting them apart from a huge pool of players to have seen the field on the 40 Acres.
The Horns have a trio of ultra-talented running backs on campus right now. All of them have shown flashes of something special, but consistent performance over a long period of time has yet to come about.
Johnathan Gray is the youngest of that triple threat, and although he will go into the 2013 season with the least amount of experience, Gray may very well outshine the others as the next great Texas back.
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People talk about ball-carrier vision all the time. And for a running back, it is one of the most prized and critical skills which can generate success from the get-go.
Gray's ability to visualize the holes before they open is a stand-alone reason why the Longhorns' running game figures to be in good hands moving forward.
The offensive line still has its issues, but with the kind of freshman campaign that Gray put together after being named the starter midway through the season, any improvement in run blocking should translate into even better production from the former Gatorade Player of the Year.
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Somewhat of a rarity for young backs entering the college game is patience.
With the game's increase in speed, physicality and mental capacity in understanding the game, inexperienced players may still look to utilize their athleticism and talent to their advantage.
Gray does an excellent job of anticipating the hole before bursting through the seam. Frankly, those gaps were not always there last season, but Gray's willingness to be patient and his comprehension of the game plan make him a valuable asset to the offense's fortunes next year.
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Gray's 13.7 yards per catch was the best of all the running backs not named Daje Johnson.
Although Gray hauled in just 11 catches on the season, his availability in the passing game makes him a more dynamic option on offense. With his speed and agility in the open field and in the screen game, Gray could be one of the more dangerous players with the ball in his hands.
With rumors of the Longhorns moving back to more of a spread offense in 2013, Gray's presence in the passing game could transition very smoothly.
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Gray does have great top-end speed, outdone by Daje Johnson in that department, but his acceleration is one of Gray's most captivating skill sets.
What makes his giddy-up even more deadly is his ability to make cuts on a dime and explode by defenders. Gray's north-south running composition feeds into his acceleration at the second and third levels.
A one-cut machine, Gray demonstrated plenty of that ability last season. And as long as he is in the backfield, the Longhorns have a deadly offensive weapon with which to play.
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If Gray's first season is any indication of what may come in the future, then the Longhorns should be very happy.
With Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron having suffered injuries in both their freshman and sophomore seasons, Gray's apparent durability has to have him on the top side of the depth chart, and it is likely his job to lose.
As long as Gray stays healthy, the Longhorns have a dynamic running game capable of multiple looks and explosive plays with Gray at the forefront.