Johnathan Gray Q&A
UT's top signee ready for role in Longhorns' offense
Johnathan Gray Interview
Editor's note: Before Texas' 2012 recruiting class arrives on campus, HornsNation will talk with each of the incoming freshman one more time before their college careers begin.
Five-star running back Johnathan Gray (Aledo, Texas/Aledo) broke more records in high school than an embattled music store employee.
Now the nation's top running back and No. 2 overall player in 2012 is turning his attention to doing more of the same for the Longhorns as the most-hyped recruit to come to Texas since Vince Young in 2002.
How much of an opportunity will he get next season with two solid backs already in Austin in Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron? What are his personal goals for next season, thoughts on running the Wildhorn and dusting off the Wishbone?
Gray answers those questions and more.
HornsNation: Have you taken some time to reflect on all that you accomplished at Aledo?
Gray: Oh yeah. After winning back-to-back-to-back state championships and playing for four years with Aledo I took some time and you want it to last because you are always with your boys having fun. You are out winning games and state championships, so you never want to leave that. It is something that I can always look back on and say that I accomplished all of it. Fortunately for me I've broke some records and had some great teams around me. My teammates have helped me get to where I am now.
HN: But when you look at what you did accomplish. To be able to sit back and say 'I am one of the all-time greats.' Do you look at it like that at all?
JG: You have to look at because you've done it. But you don't want to get a big head about it. It's just like 'Wow. I did that and I am blessed to do it.' You kind of say the only person that goes down in the record book is your name and not your team, and you never want to throw your teammates under the bus because they get you to where you are going. So I always look back that I accomplished these things but I couldn't do it without my teammates.
HN: In order to set all the records you did, you carried the ball more than anyone in Texas state history. What kind of toll did that take on your body, and are you worried at all, even at this stage of your career, about burning out?
JG: Oh, no. In college it is different because you have three good backs. One back will get 15 carries, the other will get 10 and another will get maybe 12, 13 or eight. In high school you have that one person that is getting all 20-30 carries. That's what we based our game on. But in college you have to have a balanced attack. Taking a load in high school is wear-and-tear on your body but you have to learn to get over it and prepare your body for the next level. I'm not worried at all from the carries I took. I'm glad I am getting less carries in college because it is less wear-and-tear on your body.
HN: Has preparation this offseason been any different because you are preparing for college and not high school?
JG: Oh yeah (laughing). [The workout is] gruesome. You have to run a ton more than what you run in high school. Your lifting is more explosive and there is more weight that you put on now than in high school. They do it at a faster pace than in high school. You have to get prepared for it. You really can't get prepared now but once I get down there I will be a little bit ahead of the game and know what to do and where to go.
HN: You've obviously got the talent to play right away but will be joining a backfield with two dynamic backs already in place. What is going to be your mindset heading into fall camp as you compete with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron for playing time?
JG: Right now my mindset is to get down there and learn the offense, learn from the older guys. You aren't going to be the standout player as soon as you get there. You have to sit back, go over your techniques and learn some things from the guys that are already down there. Learn what their mistakes were so you won't make them. Once you get the hang of it you go through your sophomore year and get even more prepared. Right now I just want to learn all the plays and do what I can to get on the field.
More on Gray
Carter Strickland: The possibilities for Gray and the Texas offense are endless. In fact, the one thing co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin needs to be very wary of is not to pile too much on Gray as the season begins. He is still going to be just a few months removed from high school and is learning an entirely new system.
What Texas needs to do with Gray, at first, is find out what he is really best at -- running inside or out, catching balls in the flat, the wild, whatever -- and exploit that one talent as much as possible. Then as the season progresses and Gray begins to feel more comfortable within the offense his role can expanded.
However, if Texas just starts handing him the ball early and often things are not going to go well. Freshmen running backs are way too impatient and don't allow the blocking to set up in front of them. That's why it will be best to try and get Gray outside in some space at the start n order to utilize his instincts and speed.
Look for Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron to be the workhorses through the first three quarters of the first three games and then Gray to get the ball in some different situations where he can take advantage of a tired defense or a slower defense in the fourth quarter.
Also he should get a few wild snaps prior to the Oklahoma game so that he has a familiarity with that position in time to play it against the Sooners.
Mack Brown's take:
He's been very durable. I think he broke just about every state and national rushing record. The most amazing thing to me is how durable he has been because he's carried the ball so many times. And he won state championship after state championship. You can see he has got vision, he has got power, he has great speed. He and his dad were excited that we were running the ball and running it better. But they were also excited that there were more backs here because he doesn't want to be a guy to carry it 35-40 times a game. He wants to be in group of guys that are fresh and carrying the ball and can have an impact. But he gives you a chance for a home run every time he touches it. And we've been that way some around here. We need to get that back, that every time you touch it you've got a chance to score.
HN: Have you gotten the playbook yet?
JG: Oh yeah I have the playbook. I am watching film on what they did last year and seeing where I can fit in, seeing the techniques of the defenses and learning schemes. It's just a learning process. I got the playbook about a few weeks ago. Having the playbook is just shocking. It's pretty big and overwhelming. You have to get prepared for it. Getting that in your hands, man, it's time for business.
HN: Have you been able to form any type of relationship with Brown or Bergeron?
JG: I've gone down there a few times. They couldn't talk to me that much. But when they did they just told me what to look forward to, what to expect. They always joke about how [Major] Applewhite is your daddy when you get down there. We have jokes about that. They are two great guys and that's who I want to play with. I think we can be pretty good.
HN: How excited are you to form such a big trio at RB?
JG: I am very excited. You have two power backs and a speedy back that can catch it. You have all these weapons in the backfield and you want to unleash all of them. We are a three-headed monster that no one wants to see. I can't wait to gel together so when the coaches put us in it's just bam, bam, bam. I don't want the defense to know what's hitting them. Hopefully we can win some national championships.
HN: What are your personal expectations for this upcoming season?
JG: You always have goals and want to set the bar high. I want to be the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and things of that nature. I know I have to work hard at it and I know it will come. In my mind I want to score more than anyone scores and get more yards than anyone. That's my expectation and I have to work hard to get it.
HN: How big a part of your game do you consider your pass-catching abilities to be?
JG: As a running back you want to catch the ball. You don't want to run the ball 20 times up the middle. You want to be able to catch the ball, have one-on-one opportunities and make the other guy miss. Catching the ball out of the backfield is a big part of college football. I am really working on that side of my game. That and blocking schemes.
HN: Should you guys dust off the old wishbone in Austin?
JG: I've heard that. I wouldn't say it's impossible but you don't want to base your offense on that because we have weapons in our recruiting class at quarterback and receiver. You want to run and throw the ball. You don't want to go to the wishbone. That's something Georgia Tech ran. I don't want to run the wishbone.
HN: What about the Wildhorn? Is that something you could see yourself doing?
JG: That's a role Coach Applewhite has talked to me about. That's a fun role. It's fun getting the ball first right from the snap. You want to make plays. It would be fun.
HN: What most excites you about all of this?
JG: Everything. Just going down and being a part of the University of Texas. Austin is a great town. Playing in front of all of those fans is awesome because not a lot of people can say they've done that. It's overwhelming and is going to be exciting.
HN: Texas is 13-12 over the last two years but seem to be heading in the right direction. Do you agree?
JG: Mack Brown said that we've gotten complacent and needed to get some younger guys in there for motivation. He went out and got his coaching staff that is really excited, younger and we have a lot of talent. We will be pretty good and be better than what we've been the past two years.
HN: This recruiting class is really tight-knit. How do you think that will help you all going into your freshman year?
JG: It's going to help a lot because we know the other's strengths and weaknesses already. We got the privilege of playing together in the Under Armour All-American Game and our chemistry is getting better. That's what you want as freshmen.