Jonathan Gray

Texas’ backfield is made up of thunder (Joe Bergeron). lighting (Jonathan Gray) and Malcolm Brown, well, he’d be the tornado. Deadly when in form, but when hampered by a minor elemental change, tends to fall apart.

For Brown, that’s not wind speed or temperature, it’s almost a literal Achilles heel: a body prone to injuries. Expect that to change in 2013. Brown is primed for a breakout season and will finally shed the injury label that’s nagged him throughout his time at Texas.

Brown entered Texas as a consensus five-star recruit and ranked in the Top 10 nationally of many best of lists. He flashed that potential his freshman year, dashing for 635 and five touchdowns in his first
seven games.

At that point, Brown appeared as a force. His fellow freshman back Joe Bergeron was a mere afterthought. Brown was destined to be the next Longhorn in line for a legacy that includes Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson.

Then the injuries started to creep in. A turf toe issue kept Brown out of the next two contests and hampered him the remainder of the season. Before the foot issue, Brown was on pace to break the Longhorns freshman rushing record. After it, he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry.

Brown’s tale spun similar in 2012. Actually, the start of his season was odd. He rushed for 105 yards in Texas’ first game, then received only two carries in the next contest, before rushing for a team-best 128 yards against Ole Miss.

But his injury history caught up to him once again, and he missed the Longhorns’ next five games with a sprained ankle. At that point, freshman Johnathan Gray gained favor in the Texas backfield, and when Brown returned, the carries weren’t there.

Now, Brown enters 2013 as the forgotten man. Gray, a five-star recruit and high-school record-breaker himself, is the lead back on the depth chart, and head coach Mack Brown raves about his toughness.

Gray will have a successful season. He’s publicly stated his goal is to gain 1,500 yards, and will require a large bulk of the carries. However, Brown is healthy and poised for a 1,000-yard season himself. The 6-foot, 220-pound junior back spent the offseason working through targeted muscle strengthening drills, everything from stretches to even a little yoga, which he describes as his least favorite exercise, by far.

Fact is, he’s feeling healthy and if Brown stays that way, he’ll be effective.

The Longhorns new up-tempo offense will create an additional 12-15 snaps a game, meaning each back will get numerous chances to shine. Texas’ top trio of backs will have a set rotation, and will each see the field with consistency.

That’s all Brown will need. He’s the most complete back on the roster; big enough to plunge through the middle of the line, fast enough to sweep to the outside and shifty enough to make people miss in the open field. It’s a potent combination, and something that will force offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to give him
the ball.

Bothersome feet held Brown back his first two seasons, but expect the same limbs to carry him to greatness this go-around. 

After all, without their feet, how can anyone expect to move forward?

Texas’ backfield is made up of thunder (Joe Bergeron). lighting (Jonathan Gray) and Malcolm Brown, well, he’d be the tornado. Deadly when in form, but when hampered by a minor elemental change, tends to fall apart.

For Brown, that’s not wind speed or temperature, it’s almost a literal Achilles heel: a body prone to injuries. Expect that to change in 2013. Brown is primed for a breakout season and will finally shed the injury label that’s nagged him throughout his time at Texas.

Brown entered Texas as a consensus five-star recruit and ranked in the Top 10 nationally of many best of lists. He flashed that potential his freshman year, dashing for 635 and five touchdowns in his first
seven games.

At that point, Brown appeared as a force. His fellow freshman back Joe Bergeron was a mere afterthought. Brown was destined to be the next Longhorn in line for a legacy that includes Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson.

Then the injuries started to creep in. A turf toe issue kept Brown out of the next two contests and hampered him the remainder of the season. Before the foot issue, Brown was on pace to break the Longhorns freshman rushing record. After it, he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry.

Brown’s tale spun similar in 2012. Actually, the start of his season was odd. He rushed for 105 yards in Texas’ first game, then received only two carries in the next contest, before rushing for a team-best 128 yards against Ole Miss.

But his injury history caught up to him once again, and he missed the Longhorns’ next five games with a sprained ankle. At that point, freshman Johnathan Gray gained favor in the Texas backfield, and when Brown returned, the carries weren’t there.

Now, Brown enters 2013 as the forgotten man. Gray, a five-star recruit and high-school record-breaker himself, is the lead back on the depth chart, and head coach Mack Brown raves about his toughness.

Gray will have a successful season. He’s publicly stated his goal is to gain 1,500 yards, and will require a large bulk of the carries. However, Brown is healthy and poised for a 1,000-yard season himself. The 6-foot, 220-pound junior back spent the offseason working through targeted muscle strengthening drills, everything from stretches to even a little yoga, which he describes as his least favorite exercise, by far.

Fact is, he’s feeling healthy and if Brown stays that way, he’ll be effective.

The Longhorns new up-tempo offense will create an additional 12-15 snaps a game, meaning each back will get numerous chances to shine. Texas’ top trio of backs will have a set rotation, and will each see the field with consistency.

That’s all Brown will need. He’s the most complete back on the roster; big enough to plunge through the middle of the line, fast enough to sweep to the outside and shifty enough to make people miss in the open field. It’s a potent combination, and something that will force offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to give him
the ball.

Bothersome feet held Brown back his first two seasons, but expect the same limbs to carry him to greatness this go-around. 

After all, without their feet, how can anyone expect to move forward?

5 names you should know for the upcoming MLB draft

The 2013 MLB first-year player draft, held on June 6-8, is almost a month away and what more can a reeling Astros fan look forward to than take a look at potential players his team could take in the draft.

This is the busiest time of the year for baseball scouts, as they bustle from game to game trying to help their respective teams decide who to take where on each day of the draft. After some scouting of my own, here’s a look at my top prospects for the 2013 MLB Draft.

1. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma

I saw this kid completely overpower the Texas offense in March, as he allowed one unearned run and struck out eight Longhorns in 6 2/3 innings. At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, he has the size and power to that MLB scouts drool over to project as a potential front-end starter in the future. He currently holds a 1.09 ERA this season and has struck out 91 batters in 74 1/3 innings pitched. His fastball sits around 95 mph with movement and has shown that he can run it up to 102 mph multiple times. He still needs to work on command of his slider, but it is a consistent out pitch for him at the college level. Gray also possesses an above average changeup even though it lags behind his two other pitches.

2. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford

This is another guy who roughed up UT bats early in the season. On March 1 in Palo Alto, Appel struck out 14 Longhorns and pitched his way to a complete game three-hitter. His slender 6-foot-5 has the projection to make MLB scouts drool. He has a three-quarters arm slot, which is a small cause for concern for arm problems further down the road, but his 93-96 mph fastball causes most scouts to overlook that. He has been known to get up to 98 mph when he needs to. He might have the most polish and control in terms of prospects with electric stuff in this year’s draft, shown by his ability to go deep into games. He has a 1.54 ERA this season and has compiled 84 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 70 1/3 innings pitched.

3. Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego

This 6-foot-5 physical specimen has improved his draft stock more than anyone in the country over the past few months. He clearly possesses tremendous power due to his size but also has shown surprising athleticism, with six stolen bases on the year. Bryant has MLB bat speed already and has a great approach to hitting, as he can hit for power to all fields. He is an average defender at third base, but his athleticism helps him project to a corner outfield position as well. This year he is hitting .350 with 20 home runs and 42 RBIs. Of his 49 hits, 32 are extra-base hits.

4. Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville HS, committed to Georgia

It’s always risky drafting a high school prospect so highly in the draft, especially position players, but when it does happen, the player is usually a five-tooler who is too projectable to pass on. Clint Frazier fits that bill. He runs a 6.4-second 60-yard dash (which translates to a 4.3-second 40-yard dash), throws 98 mph from the outfield, and can hit for serious power. Like most high schoolers, his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame has some room to fill out, but it’s easy to see why he is most likely a Top 10 lock in this year’s draft.

5. Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina

Moran is probably the most MLB-ready bat in this year’s class, as he has spent 3 years in college, unlike most top prospects. He has great bat control and fluidity to his swing, almost unseen at the college level. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Moran has the size to be a solid first baseman since his fielding and range at third is not MLB caliber. Even though he has increased his power numbers from three homeruns last year to 10 this year, some still worry about his MLB power potential. However, I can see him being a .300 average, 15-20 homerun guy once he finally settles in to the majors. He also has 15-20 pounds of weight to add to his frame once he reaches the majors. Perhaps the most impressive stat, regarding Moran this year is that he has only struck out eight times in 163 at-bats.

Honorable Mentions:

Aaron Judge, OF, Fresno State

Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford

Dominic Smith, 1B/OF, Serra High School - committed to USC

Kohl Stewart, RHP/OF, St. Pius X High School - committed to Texas A&M

Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State

Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson High School - committed to Clemson

Texas knew it would have its hands full with Oklahoma starter Jonathan Gray.

Gray has been arguably the most dominant pitcher in the Big 12 in 2013, as he entered Friday with the conference lead in strikeouts and was fourth with a 1.34 ERA.

The Longhorns witnessed Gray’s dominance firsthand in Friday’s 2-1 series opening loss to the Sooners, as the right-hander struck out four of the first seven batters and finished the game with eight punch outs. Gray allowed just one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings to improve to 6-1.

“He pitched a very effective game,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “We faced a real good pitcher and we battled him.“

Oklahoma backed Gray with an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by clean up hitter Matt Obereste to score Craig Aiken. Texas would answer with a run in the third after a wild pitch by Gray scored Mark Gottsacker, but the Sooners took the lead for good in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Anthony Hermelyn.

The Longhorns loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning and had runners on second and third in the seventh with two outs, but they failed to score in either frame. They finished the game with eight hits in what was just the second time in seven contests that they failed to record a double-digit hit total.

Parker French registered a strong start after putting together his shortest outing of the year last Friday, as he held the Sooners to two runs on 5 hits in 5 1/3 innings. Despite the strong effort, the sophomore was saddled with the loss and fell to 3-2 on the season.

Following the game, players were disappointed with the game’s result but were confident that games will begin to go their way if they continue playing with a lot of effort.

“We are so close, and everyone knows that,” Gottsacker said. “It’s extremely frustrating but we just have to keep going out their and doing the same thing, grinding. We played extremely hard today. I think everyone was proud about the way the play, just not about the outcome.”

Texas will look to even the series Saturday at 2 p.m. as they host the Sooners at Disch-Falk Field for the second game of the three-game set.