Texas’ running game drew headlines during the 2016 season due to the on-field success of D’Onta Foreman. Despite Foreman’s incredible 2,000-yard season, however, there was still a missing piece in the Texas backfield.
Running back Chris Warren III suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Longhorns’ 49-31 shootout loss at Oklahoma State. The six-foot-two-inch back launched his sophomore campaign with authority, tallying 366 yards on 62 carries in Texas’ first four contests of 2016. But all of the progress immediately halted when Warren was sidelined for the final eight games.
“It was aggravating because I knew I could have helped in some way, shape or form,” Warren said. “If I was out there I could have done something, and it really sucks watching the team go out there and play and you not being able to do anything.”
Plenty has changed since the injury transpired — including another ailment. Warren injured his hamstring late last month in spring practice, and their is no timetable for his return. He should, however, be ready once fall rolls around.
A new coaching staff and Foreman’s departure to the NFL are just a few of the major shakeups that Warren is experiencing headed into his junior year. During his tenure in Austin, Texas has cycled through three running back coaches, causing minimal stability over the time period. But amidst all the change, Warren hopes his on-field performance remains constant.
“The scheme of the offense may change, but inside zone is inside zone and power is power,” Warren said. “And pass protection, you still got to get certain positioning and you got to make sure you shoot your arms in. In a sense, I’d like stability but at the same time, it’s kind of the same things, so you’re probably learning better just depending on who teaches it.”
This season, the Longhorns will be learning the methods of first-year head coach Tom Herman. Warren and Herman previously intersected paths when Warren took a recruiting visit to Ohio State several years back when Herman operated as the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator.
“He remembered me from that visit, so it was pretty cool,” Warren said. “He’s the same guy, he’s really energetic, he loves football, and he’s ready to coach.”
Spring break meant a period of rest and relaxation for many players for Herman’s squad, but Warren stayed put in Austin and spent the free week training. Warren is competing with several other young running backs for the starting job under the new coaching regime. He is motivated by the concept of winning, aiming to contribute as a complete running back by the first kickoff in September.
Although Herman will not officially release a depth chart this spring, Warren is in the mix to be the feature halfback at Texas next season. When healthy and on the field, he has demonstrated an ability to shred defenses and break tackles. On Thanksgiving against Texas Tech in 2015, Warren notched 276 yards (a program record for a freshman) and four touchdowns on just 25 attempts.
While he is unsure if the NCAA will grant him a medical redshirt for last year’s injury, Warren plans to capitalize on his next playing opportunity under Herman and thenew staff.
“They want us to have a successful offense,” Warren said. “They want us to win, so that’s really about working hard, following your coaching, and making sure you go out there with discipline.”