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Chris Warren in the spotlight as new Texas feature back

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The massive ball carrier is trying to stay healthy for the first time in his college career.

NCAA Football: Texas at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

October 1, 2016.

It’s been exactly 10 months since Texas Longhorns running back Chris Warren III was able to appear in a game for the ‘Horns.

Since then, the 6’3, 254-pounder has been working to rehab the PCL injury he suffered in the first half of that contest against the Pokes.

“You want to go out there and play and help your team,” Warren said back in February. “Knowing you can’t do that and having it be so early in the season, it really puts a little stinger in your heart.”

And it hasn’t been an easy journey, either — Warren surely had another little stinger in his heart after he was ruled out for the Orange-White game and last half of spring practice due to a hamstring injury.

Texas RB Chris Warren motivated to be great in return from kne...

Tom Herman wants Chris Warren to put his pads down and run over somebody. After missing eight games last season, the remaining Smash Brother is more than ready.

Posted by Burnt Orange Nation on Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Then Warren was one of six Texas players whose summer conditioning schedules were impacted when they contracted mumps.

With the start of preseason camp on Friday, Warren’s long journey has culminated in a huge opportunity for the junior running back that has him in the spotlight — his broad shoulders will be be tasked with fall with the significant challenge of replacing the nation’s top running back, D’Onta Foreman.

To accomplish that feat, Warren will have to stay healthy for the first time in his career after ankle injuries hobbled him as a freshman and his knee injury cut short his 2016 campaign less than two quarters into the conference season.

As a result, Warren has only carried the ball 133 times during his two abbreviated seasons in Austin. By contrast, former head coach Charlie Strong and his staff asked Foreman to carry the ball 323 times last season alone.

So the increase in Warren’s workload this season by itself would be enough to cause concerns about the big back’s ability to stay fresh during the 12-game regular season, even if he didn’t have the history of injuries.

Conditioning is also a concern for a back of Warren’s size and he reported to camp at 254 pounds, slightly above where he wants to be during the season.

Fortunately, head coach Tom Herman is largely satisfied with where Warren is physically.

“He's done everything right in the summer,” the Texas head coach said Monday. “He came out today, his body looked right and he didn't fatigue and so all signs are pointing in the right direction. But it's too difficult to tell.”

Just as there are concerns about whether Warren can stay healthy and maximize his potential by finding the right weight for him to play at, there are reasons for optimism.

Like his record-setting performance against Texas Tech as a freshman.

And his strong start to the 2016 season, which featured a 100-yard, two touchdown performance against Cal and a huge first half against Oklahoma State that put him over 100 yards on only 10 carries.

Now Warren will have the opportunity to shine in Herman’s offense under running backs coach Stan Drayton, widely regarded as one of the best in the business.

For his part, Drayton admitted on National Signing Day that he’s never seen a running back like Warren before — the only real comparison he was able to make was to Jerome Bettis, the former bowling bowl of a running back who stands at least three inches shorter than Warren.

Since his new pupil is so unique, Drayton believes that Warren has chance at greatness.

“The think about Chris is he is very conscientious,” Drayton said. “He wants to be great. We’ve still got to work on some things to help him get to that goal, but he’s definitely got the traits of being a great back.”

But in order to achieve greatness, Warren has to stay healthy — whether or not he can will be one of the biggest storylines of the 2017 season for the ‘Horns.