LEANDER, Texas -- If the 2014 class in the state of Texas is heavy with talented defensive backs, the 2015 class is quickly earning a reputation as the year of the running back. One of the standouts at the Texas 7on7 State Championship in the small-school division was Houston (Texas) Episcopal running back Tyreik Gray, who shredded the Brownwood defense during the final game of pool play on Thursday.
It's relatively rare for running backs to have a major impact in 7on7 play -- California product Joe Mixon was a standout at The Opening out of the backfield and Texas A&M pledge Shaun NIxon consistently makes plays for Lake Travis in the format, but even talented backs often catch only a few short passes.
Count Gray as one who belongs in the category with MIxon and Nixon. Whether it was on wheel routes against overmatched linebackers or twisting his body to bring down a pass down the seam while being interfered with, Gray's play made it clear that he was his quarterback's favorite target; even down along the goal line, he was still able to get open consistently.
How does he do it? In an interview with SB Nation Recruiting, Gray said that he simply works on it during the season and during the offseason and then watches the defenders and goes where they aren't. Not entirely complicated, that.
At about 6'0 and 180 pounds, Gray looked more like an all-purpose back on his sophomore highlights, but was more filled out during the viewing Thursday, though his ability as a pass-catcher makes him look like a strong candidate to fill a similar role in college. With sub-11 100m speed and remarkable lateral agility, Gray certainly appeared worthy of his impressive early offer list, which includes Arizona State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
As far as that exploding recruitment is concerned, however, Gray isn't focused much on it right now -- none of those schools are standing out to him and he's taking the process slowly because he doesn't want to get caught up in all the pressure associated with the process. He's planning on holding off on a decision until his senior season.
The Bears and Sooners are the schools he said are recruiting him the hardest right now, and he likes the high-powered Baylor offense. Proximity won't be a factor for him and he's open to different offensive styles, as well. He wants to hear more from the Oregon Ducks because their offense is similar to what they run in high school. The Alabama Crimson Tide is another school he would like to hear from, even though their offense is less similar -- Gray sees himself as a running back who can excel between the tackles as well as outside.
Camp visits are in the works for Oregon, but Gray indicated that he doesn't believe he will make it to Tuscaloosa until next summer.
One school that has already received a camp visit is the Texas Longhorns. Gray said that he liked the experience in Austin, but said the 'Horns weren't a team that he followed closely growing up and notably were not mentioned when he talked about wanting to hear from Oregon and Alabama.
It will be some time before Gray's recruitment really picks up from his perspective, but when it does, there will surely be quite a few more teams who have extended offers to the speedy running back.