Skip to main content

Oklahoma RB Eric Gray is Ready to Build on Breakout Performance Against Nebraska

The Sooner running back is finally enjoying the success he thought he'd have at OU after transferring from Tennessee.

NORMAN — Three weeks into the season, Eric Gray finally had his breakthrough as an Oklahoma Sooner.

The former Tennessee transfer was touted as OU’s feature back this offseason by offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, but he had an underwhelming opening two games to the 2022 season.

Gray carried the ball 26 times for 173 yards combined against UTEP and Kent State, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, but it appeared as if he still needed to find another gear.

Marcus Major looked to be the more explosive of the two backs across those two games, though Gray was handed double the work load.

All of that changed in Lincoln.

Gray finally found his groove, making Nebraska defenders miss left and right while running through tacklers to pick up extra yardage downfield.

The Memphis native needed only 11 carries to log 113 rushing yards and two scores, marking his best game on the ground in a Sooner uniform.

Gray’s patience was rewarded, as he told himself before the game not to press and to let the offense come to him.

“It felt great,” he said after the game. ”I felt good in the game. I told myself before the game, ‘Just be Eric. Just take what’s there. When you get later on in the game, it’ll pop.’ That’s what happened.”

The showing was the kind of impact Gray thought he'd have at Oklahoma after transferring, though it didn't come immediately last season. 

"I think last year I had some things to do mentally with my game that I overcame this year that has allowed me to play as well as I have," he said.

Lebby was really pleased all offseason long with the leadership Gray has brought to a young running backs room.

FB - Eric Gray
FB - Eric Gray, Nebraska Cornhuskers
FB - Eric Gray, Theo Wease

Major has been on campus since 2019, but behind him there are plenty of new faces for Gray to help mold.

Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk are a talented pair of true freshman trying to learn the ropes, and Tawee Walker is a transfer walk-on getting acclimated to his first season in Norman.

A consistent worker off the field, Lebby was pleased that Gray’s efforts were rewarded with results on the field in Lincoln.

“He’s worked the right way,” Lebby said on Monday. “That’s what’s given him such a great voice inside our locker room. But then now he’s had some really good production. I think the best thing was just him being able to get into space and win his one-on-ones.

“He did a great job at the second and third level at winning. But again Eric’s been a pro. And he’s been incredibly consistent on and off the field sine we’ve gotten here. And to me it’s a credit to who he is inside and out.”

As the season marches on, Gray hopes to be able to build on his strong performance against the ‘Huskers.

Winning those one-on-one battles should continue, as he’s getting back acclimated to the speed in actual games, which is hard to truly replicate in practice.

“I think winning those battles has kind of been something I was born with, my dad out there getting me cutting on cones when I was younger,” Gray said after practice Tuesday. “But being able to just simulate it in practice, seeing someone in the hole in practice and knowing my moves.

“Watching film, it slows the game down where you know with this defender, you know if he’s a low tackler or a high tackler, you know the moves he’s gonna make when he breaks down to counteract your moves.”

Still, Gray isn’t going to let one strong performance define him.

He’s bought into the message from head coach Brent Venables about having to go back to the drawing board and prove yourself over and over again each week.

“We’ve got to have that windshield mentality,” Gray said. “… When we go into the team meeting (Venables) has a car with the windshield mentality showing where we’re going. He’s big on leaving your past in the rearview mirror.

“Don’t look in the rearview mirror because if you’re driving a car and you’re looking at the rearview mirror you’re going to put it in the ditch. Just like in life, your past mistakes you’ve got to put behind you. You’ve got to look through the windshield and keep going forward.”

Want to join the discussion? Click here to become a member of the AllSooners message board community today!

Sign up for your premium membership to today, and get access to the entire Fan Nation premium network!

Follow AllSooners on Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest OU news.