“I hate Chris Warren,” says Texas Longhorns sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson.
Jefferson hates tackling him, that is, as the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year would rather not have to face off against the big sophomore running back in the open field after he’s generated a head of steam.
The great majority of last year’s Texas Tech Red Raiders starting defense clearly feels the same way after getting run over or bounced off of the big, bruising back — who says he now weighs 247 pounds — on his way to a highlight-reel touchdown run of 91 yards on Thanksgiving.
Junior running back D’Onta Foreman, the other half of the so-called Smash Brothers, has seen all that first-hand in practice and games.
“Chris is so big and powerful,” Foreman said. “When he runs the ball, it's like people just bounce off of him. He gets the hole and nobody wants to tackle him. Nobody wants to tackle either one of us, but he's bigger than me so I know they really don't want to tackle him.”
This year, Warren is ready for a bigger role after his record-setting performance against the Red Raiders on Thanksgiving filling in for an injured D’Onta Foreman, who dislocated a finger against West Virginia.
As a player who is effectively the co-starter alongside Foreman, Warren will have a bigger role in 2016 and see his number of opportunities increase because of the new up-tempo offense that will create more plays and spread defenses from sideline to sideline with the wide splits of the wide receivers.
For Foreman, who was largely ignored all summer by the national media despite his game-changing run against Oklahoma and average of 7.2 yards per carry in 2015, this season is all about proving his doubters wrong again as he attempts to serve notice of his talent.
“I feel like there are still people who really don't know who I am,” Foreman said. “I don't like taking that much credit for myself. I still feel like I'm somewhat under the radar, in a way. And that helps me just motivate myself to go out there and just work to prove what I have.”
The hard work refining the small aspects of his game like understanding blitz pick ups and reading the defense by watching the safeties will only help his impressive physical attributes shine.
“D'Onta is actually really explosive,” Warren said. “He goes from zero to top speed really fast. It doesn't take him much time at all. He finds holes that I would never, ever find. I don't know how he does it. He's really strong and fast. He's a crazy athlete and he studies the game because he wants to be a coach. So he studies the game and goes about it like a coach. I think that's what helps him most.”
In fact, Foreman served as a de facto coach at times during the spring when his position coach, Anthony Johnson, was out on the recruiting trail, forcing the 6’0, 240-pounder to do his own tutoring.
Now a more complete player who won’t have to come off of the field for pass-protection reasons, Foreman should have a chance break off a few more of those explosive runs that made him such a sensation for the Longhorns last season.
In five days, the two Smash Brothers will team up to set the tone for the entire team by serving as the hammers in a rushing attack that head coach Charlie Strong hopes will define the offense.
They’re ready, and no one wants to tackle them.