Texas was once a powerhouse of offensive playmakers. Players like Ricky Williams and Vince Young used to roam the 40 Acres and, on Saturday nights, rack up hundreds and thousands of yards. Recently, however, the Longhorns have lacked on that front.
After a short stint without any of these playmakers, Texas is back on the rise to a Longhorns team filled with talent and not many have more than sophomore running back Johnathan Gray. He led the squad in rushing last year as a freshman but ran for only three touchdowns -- one fewer than he ran for in a win over Kansas State, a game that saw him run for a career-high 141 yards.
“He has become a strong leader in the football team,” co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. “He was near the 90-yard mark, knew he was going to break 100. I was glad to see him break out. Not only did he make some big runs down the field with some tremendous cuts, he also has the power.”
The Aledo native ran into his freshman season as the second-best prospect at any position and the top running back prospect, according to ESPN. Gray met most of these expectations during his first year. After an injury that forced Malcolm Brown to miss several games, Gray rose to the occasion. He led the backs with 701 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while also tallying 151 yards receiving on 11 receptions with one touchdown.
Gray has once again lived up to expectations during his sophomore seasons. The 5-foot-11, 207-pound back leads the team in all-purpose yards with 487 total yards and four touchdowns. Gray leads the rushers with 439 yards on the ground and is 287 yards ahead of the second-place contender — injured quarterback David Ash.
“He’s somebody that’s great with consistency,” offensive guard Mason Walters said. “He really sticking to the course and understanding what his role is within the scheme and executing it to the best of his abilities. He’s done a great job with that.”
Gray has gained praise from his teammates and coaches, not only for his abilities, but also work put in on the field, adding more to his attributes than just his versatility and quickness.
“First, since Johnathan has been here, he’s been one of the hardest workers on the team,” Applewhite said. “He is totally unselfish. He has never said, ‘Give it to me more, give it to me less.’ When we ask him to block, he’s one of the best blockers on the team. He works that way every day in practice.”
Gray has helped the team gain confidence after two back-to-back nonconference losses early in the season.
“Confidence is through the roof right now,” Gray said. “We’re doing well right now and the team is getting better as we progress through these seasons. We feel comfortable with what we have right now and we’ll get prepared for OU and be ready to go out and have fun.”