Rockwall running back Chris Warren committed to the Texas Longhorns in a National Signing Day ceremony at his high school on Wednesday morning:
A longtime target of both head coach Charlie Strong and former head coach Mack Brown, Warren chose Texas over his other finalists Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Washington. The decision from Warren softened the blow of losing out on five-star running back Soso Jamabo, who is headed to UCLA, and four-star running back Nick Brossette, who stuck with his longtime pledge to LSU.
The stage set up for Warren was rather unique:
And during the ceremony, he presented a gift to his school:
Cool moment: Warren thanked his school and gave an administrator is Army All-American jersey to keep. pic.twitter.com/SRQ5HeFuJ5— Dustin McComas (@DMcComasOB) February 4, 2015
Despite the fact that the Longhorns were considered the leader throughout the process, it was actually a much closer decision than expected between Texas and Washington, the school that ultimately ended up as his other finalist:
Developing a bond with Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson late in the process perhaps played a role in Warren's decision.
Warren isn't a prospect who has had a close long-term friendship with Jefferson, but they have been growing closer since a recent awards banquet.
"Me and Malik have gotten closer as the year has gone on," he told SB Nation Recruiting at the Army Bowl. "We've known each other from before -- we played each other once in seven-on-seven, but we went to the Landry Award dinner and celebration and we really developed a bond there. I feel like we're becoming closer and I feel like if we were to become teammates, I'd be open to being really good friends and teammates with him."
What may have helped more with him is the emphasis on academics since Strong arrived. Warren and his mother were outspoken at times about how much that means to them.
"The changes of the priorities of the kids is what's going on with that," he said, adding that he believes Strong has been improving the academic situation at Texas.
Ranked as a consensus four-star prospect, the 6'2, 242-pounder is considered the No. 77 prospect, the No. 8 running back, and the No. 12 player in Texas. He also held offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Clemson, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, SMU, Stanford, TCU, Texas A&M, Tulsa, UCLA, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Early in his high school career, he faced some questions about whether he would be able to stick at the running back position because of his size and some flashes of skill at defensive end. Then, as a junior, he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
However, Warren was able to bounce back strong as a senior, showing off his 10.73 100m speed and verified 4.62 40-yard dash on his way to more than 2,300 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior. Due to his size, he's not quite as agile as he is fast -- he posted a 4.40 shuttle time at a Nike event, likely the 2013 Dallas NFTC, as well as a 33.2-inch vertical leap that is impressive for his size.
What makes Warren special is that he has a combination of size, toughness after contact, quickness within his first several steps, and the long speed to pull away from defenders, even some defensive backs who have angles. Those reasons are why he's top-10 running back in the 2015 class despite the fact that he doesn't fit into the typical running back box.
He's overflowing from that box, in fact.
For his size, he's good laterally, but he's a better fit in a straight-ahead scheme than moving laterally and making a quick cut upfield, which could impose some limitations for him. And some cutbacks aren't accessible to him either because of his vision or the limitations of physics because of his size.
Those minor cavetas aside, Warren provides Texas with a different dimension at the running back position. And in a worst-case scenario, maybe he follows in the footsteps of Henry Melton and Chris Whaley and ends up as a high-level defensive tackle. That's not overly likely since he's not likely to gain a tremendous amount of weight from just having a training table.