Texas running back Chris Warren III (25) during a spring NCAA college football game, Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Football

With talent galore, Chris Warren III hopes for deep rotation at running back

Posted August 26th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Positioned second on the depth chart behind D’Onta Foreman, Warren could fit into a complementary role in which he gets, say, 15 to 18 carries per game, or as an understudy tasked with giving Foreman an occasional reprieve.
  • All five of the team’s scholarship backs — redshirt freshman Tristian Houston is the fifth — exceed 200 pounds, with thoroughbreds Warren (247 pounds) and Foreman (240 pounds) heading the stable.
  • Warren said if he was put in charge he'd comprise a rotation with three or four backs getting 15 carries a piece.

At last check, Chris Warren III no longer weighed in excess of 250 pounds.

It seems as if the smoldering summer heat has caused Texas’ beefy running back to melt away this preseason. Slightly, anyway. These days Warren says he’s checking in at 247 pounds, down about eight pounds from the beefed-up physique he carried in the spring, but hardly the frame of a pint-sized scat back.

Arguably the most intriguing non-starter on UT’s roster, Warren is still big and terrifying to tackle, and also healthy after bringing a hamstring injury into his second fall camp.

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“It healed up pretty quickly,” Warren said on Friday. “I’ve been good for quite some time.”

With a little more than a week to go before the season opener versus Notre Dame, Warren’s lot on the team appears to be cloudy. Positioned second on the depth chart behind D’Onta Foreman, Warren could fit into a complementary role in which he gets, say, 15 to 18 carries per game, or as an understudy tasked with giving Foreman an occasional reprieve. In time, it’ll all shake out. After all, if it wasn’t for Foreman suffering a wrist injury late last year, Warren would have remained on the sideline and not been summoned  onto the field against Texas Tech (276 yards, four touchdowns) and Baylor (106 yards).

Texas's Chris Warren III breaks free from Texas Tech on his way to a touchdown during the first half at Royal Memorial Stadium on Thursday, November 26, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas’s Chris Warren III breaks free from Texas Tech on his way to a touchdown during the first half at Royal Memorial Stadium on Thursday, November 26, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Yet it’s not only Foreman with whom Warren is competing for carries. Among the talents bubbling lower on the depth chart are versatile sophomore Kirk Johnson, who returned to practice this week after missing an undisclosed amount of time, and promising four-star recruit Kyle Porter of 6A state champion Katy. It’s an especially deep unit, one in which every player has eligibility left after this season.

All five of the team’s scholarship backs — redshirt freshman Tristian Houston is the fifth — exceed 200 pounds, with thoroughbreds Warren and Foreman (240 pounds) heading the stable. Yet health concerns have already arisen, as Foreman, Warren and Johnson have all had to sit out preseason practices with various ailments. This is especially concerning since each one missed games last year.

Running backs coach Anthony Johnson, himself once an injury-riddled back for the Longhorns, astutely pointed out, “I don’t have a guy in my room who has started for a full season and played through a full season.” For that reason, Johnson wants to temper expectations and has told his players that despite external praise of the backs being the best position group on the team, “nobody has proven that in my opinion.”

Recognizing the need to preserve their bodies, Warren said if he was put in charge, he’d comprise a rotation with three or four backs getting 15 carries a piece. Added together, that’s 60 touches a game, a number Texas never reached in 2015 but approached against Oklahoma (58) and West Virginia (54).

“Just to keep the pounding on the backs throughout the season to a minimum,” said Warren, who tore his ACL during his junior season at Rockwall. “There’s no reason to take unnecessary hits.”

Warren added, “If we split carries like I think we should, I think we can get three to four backs up to about 700 yards.”

For what it’s worth, Foreman was asked about a rotation and his response lacked the same enthusiasm as Warren’s.

“Whatever the coaches want,” Foreman said.

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