Last August, with the commitment of running back Malcolm Brown, considered as one of the top several running backs in the country by anyone with an opinion worth valuing, the Longhorns got a piece of the puzzle to resurrect a running game basically dormant since 2007, certainly a flawed year in itself that only saw Jamaal Charles hit his stride late in the season. Nebraska blitzing 90% of the time, holla!
The off-season addition of Bryan Harsin and a running scheme that will maximize the talents of the available backs, as well as giving the offensive linemen help with a bevy of tight ends, H-backs, and fullbacks should help push the Longhorns back to a place atop the national scene in the running game, exactly what an old-school coach like Mack Brown prefers.
Assuming any type of decent recruiting/development along the offensive line in the next several years, the combination of Malcolm Brown and Friday morning's verbal commit, Aledo running back Johnathan Gray, should put the Texas backfield among the elite in the country, if not the most talented.
In fact, the addition of Harsin and the commitment of Brown played large roles in the commitment of Gray to Texas ($):
I chose UT because I get a chance to be teammates with very good players. Getting the chance to work with Malcolm Brown will make me a better player. I also feel that having a young staff and playing in a new offense will be exciting. I feel really blessed to have this opportunity.
The blessing more than goes both ways. With Brown and Gray, the Longhorns have landed, in some opinions, the top two running backs in the country in the last two seasons. Early in 2012, Gray is the only five-star running back by Rivals. He's a once-in-a-decade type of talent that has the Jesus pouring on the praise like Bill Walton, calling him the second-most impactful offensive player to commit to Mack Brown after Vince Young. And who wants to argue with the Jesus?
The prototypical running back at 5-11 and 190 pounds, Gray has a thick lower body, a verified 10.6 100m time and two state championships in the last two years to his name. Against a loaded Brenham defense in the 2009 4A state title game, Gray ripped off 251 yards and four touchdowns in a performance that included an 89-yard game-clinching sprint. At DKR, no less.
Last season, Gray was even more spectacular on the biggest stage, scoring a state-record eight touchdowns in a win against La Marque.
With another strong season, Gray will put himself among the most productive backs to ever play high school football in Texas. Who's going to bet against a monster season from Gray as a senior? No one? Thought so.
In a viewing last fall against fellow state champion Lake Travis, Gray showed why he's such a highly-regarded back. Even though he didn't have his best game -- the Cavalier defense did an almost superhuman job scheming and executing to shut him down, Gray persevered through tough turf conditions to make the plays in the final minutes that put the game away. When everyone in a packed stadium knew that Gray was going to get the football, the talented back made it happen. Toughness, Grit. Will to win. Gray has it all, in spades. He would not be denied. And wasn't.
More from Gray Friday morning at his press conference.