The Texas Longhorns will boast one of the most talented running backs corps in the country, and a big piece of that will be sophomore running back Johnathan Gray.
Gray was forced into bigger action much earlier than anticipated with Malcolm Brown suffering an injury midseason, but Gray managed to roll with the punches and performed about as well as one could have expected from a true freshman.
With the Longhorns moving with more tempo on offense, the running backs have been getting a myriad of looks in the passing game. Gray has performed solidly in that area, along with his two counterparts, Brown and Joe Bergeron.
Gray was Texas' top performer in the backfield a season ago, and a seasoned offensive unit could definitely help his numbers increase as a sophomore.
Weight: 207 pounds
Position: Running Back
After rushing for 701 yards as a true freshman, second-year tailback Johnathan Gray is set for an even bigger season in 2013. But he will be sharing carries with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron.
Gray started five of the last six games for the Longhorns, many of which came in place of the junior Brown, who missed five games with injuries.
The former Aledo, Texas product and 2011-12 Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year and National Football Player of the Year was thrust into a significant role last season, and he responded with maturity and a work ethic that hardly went unnoticed.
His roster profile can be found here.
In his one year with the Longhorns, Gray has rushed for 701 yards and three touchdowns on 149 carries for a 4.7 yards-per-carry average. He also caught 11 passes for 151 yards and a score.
Gray got his first start against Kansas midseason last year and rushed for 111 yards on 18 carries. The following week against Texas Tech, Gray surpassed the century mark again, this time posting 106 yards on 20 carries.
If Gray were the lone talent in the running backs corps, there are few who could question his all-star potential. But in sharing touches with Brown and Bergeron, the spotlight around Gray inevitably will be dimmer.
Nevertheless, there are things Gray does that his upperclassmen teammates cannot do, and that is where he shined as a freshman.
Gray's work ethic, attitude and overall skill set are lovable assets that have already paved a pathway to success.
His humility and understanding of the college game and the high level at which it is played have also made Gray more mature than most sophomore tailbacks.
Gray received almost 11.5 carries per game as a freshman and took it all in stride. He is a competitor and a huge team player, and those qualities will show this season.
Every game is a key game, and if the Longhorns plan to be at their best, Gray will need to be at his best as well.
But if we are pinpointing a couple of specific matchups, Gray's production against Oklahoma and TCU may be the most crucial.
Gray managed just 63 yards on 23 carries combined against the Sooners and Horned Frogs last season. Since those two opponents pose two of the biggest threats to Texas' Big 12 title hopes this year, Gray has to be ready to perform.
"Johnathan has an unlimited ceiling out there," Brown said. "Tough, mature, works really hard every day. I'm excited about watching him go forward."
Brown also said Gray is a good option to run the Wildcat formation.
Wescott Eberts from Burnt Orange Nation described Gray as the superstar with a good head on his shoulders.
"Gray has always been the perfect package -- the superstar talent with the selflessness to follow Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown to Texas and the work ethic to maximize his ability."
Let us not forget for a moment that Gray will only be a sophomore, so he will be a part of the Longhorns' backfield for at least another season or two.
Gray, Brown and Bergeron are pinned as one of the best backfields in the country. At any point, any one of them could explode for a big play. All three are crucial to the offense, and we will see the product of that this season.
Sharing plenty of touches with Brown and Bergeron will force Gray's numbers downwards, but that takes nothing away from his overall capabilities.
Nevertheless, Gray will be Texas' top producer from the running back position and accumulate over 1,300 rushing and receiving yards for the season. His touchdown numbers will not match the gaudy yardage numbers, as the goal-line work appears to be Bergeron's bread-and-butter.
Gray will need a pretty big year to claim All-Big 12 First-Team honors. His numbers simply will not add up to warrant that selection, especially if Baylor's Lache Seastrunk comes through on his self-proclaimed Heisman-winning campaign.
2013 Prediction: 210-230 carries, 1,100 yards rushing, 5 touchdowns, 15-25 receptions, 200 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns; All-Big 12 Second Team honors