From the moment he entered the transfer portal, former Tennessee running back Eric Gray knew Oklahoma was the right place for him.
“I kind of knew from the jump that this was the place I wanted to come to,” Gray said in a Zoom press conference on Thursday. “Looking at the past years you see how great the offense is. I saw myself how great I could fit into the offense.”
And already, Gray has made a strong impression in Norman.
“The first word that comes to mind about Eric Gray is a pro,” OU running backs coach DeMarco Murray said. “He’s a guy that shows up early, stays late. Extremely smart. The transition for him offensively scheme-wise has been honestly very easy for him.”
Making the move from Tennessee to Oklahoma, Gray already has a proven track record as a productive back. In his last two seasons for the Volunteers, he accrued 1,311 rushing yards, punching it in for eight scores on the ground. A versatile back as well, Gray caught 43 passes for 369 yards and three scores, flashing all the skills required of an OU running back.
Funnily enough, it harkens back to another great Oklahoma running back who’s calling card was his versatility— coach Murray himself.
“With the demeanor that he has, very similar to mine. Quiet guy, he’s about his business,” Murray said. “Love working with him. It’s a privilege everyday to come in and work with him and make sure that he’s continuing to get better and he’s continuing to compete.”
Gray is relishing the chance to work with a proven NFL star like Murray, and is trying to absorb everything he can from his position coach.
“I definitely want to learn a lot,” he said. “He’s been there. He’s been to the highest level. He succeeded well at it, so learning from him you just learn what it takes to succeed and what it takes to be good at it.
“(Murray) teaches you how to get those touchdowns, how to get those extra yards just to be ultimately the best player you can be.”
As far as his versatility goes, Gray said it’s something he’s always been blessed with.
“I believe it’s just a God-given talent for me,” he said. “My dad was a football coach so teaching me while i was young how to cut off bags, how to cut off people, being able to catch out of the backfield, just something I was God-given with.”
Murray did single out an area of Gray's game for him to work on through the spring and headed into the season this fall, however.
“The one thing he needs to continue to work on is his pass protection,” Murray said. “He’s not afraid, he’s a physical back when he needs to be, but just technique-wise I think we’re gonna clean that up for him.”
Gray said he’s been working at it every day in practice, and Murray as well as fellow running back Kennedy Brooks have been big in helping him develop.
“Honing and doing it every day at practice, that’s something new here,” he said. “Working on pass protection every day at practice, just different techniques, learning how to keep your hands inside, learning how to use your leverage, use your hips and explode out of your hips on contact.
“We do a really good job of live reps going against the linebackers in pass protection, so I definitely think it’s helping me a lot.”
As he’s getting settled on the field, things are calming down in Gray’s off the field life in Norman too.
“I’ve been here since around February… I’m finally starting to settle in here,” he said. “Learning the streets, learning where to eat, where to go… it’s starting to feel like home.”
There’s been a validation of his initial gut feeling about his decision to transfer to the Sooners.
“From the jump, it was kind of something telling me that Oklahoma was the best place for me.”