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Texas RB Chris Warren III’s commitment to improvement pays off

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The junior is now the product of Stan Drayton’s teaching.

NCAA Football: San Jose State at Texas Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

When they went low, he went high.

When they got in his way, he broke arm tackles.

When he needed an assist, big offensive guard Pat Hudson was there to help him into the end zone..

For Texas Longhorns junior running back Chris Warren III, Saturday’s performance against the San Jose State Spartans featured a little bit of everything, but a lot of production.

The 6’4, 250-pounder recorded his fifth career 100-yard performance in rushing 16 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think we all knew it was in there,” said head coach Tom Herman. “We'd seen flashes of it, but this is a guy that has been banged up and missed some time for us.”

Indeed, Warren suffered from an ankle injury as a freshman, missed most of the 2016 season with a knee injury, hurt his hamstring during the spring, had mumps in the offseason, and then suffered a concussion during fall camp.

As a result, Warren fell behind sophomore Kyle Porter on the running back depth chart before he earned the starting nod against the Spartans.

He’s faced questions from running backs coach Stan Drayton about his practice ability and still has work to do, in Herman’s estimation.

“Again, he'd be the first to tell you, he's not a finished product,” Herman said. “He's still got work to do in terms of seeing the holes open up.”

The room for improvement illustrates the significant potential for the Rockwall product, who has also made significant strides since Herman and his staff arrived in Austin.

“Chris is a guy that, in nine months, has really made a commitment to running tougher, to running stronger, to running lower,” Herman said. “You saw that today.”

San Jose State was one of the worst teams in the country defending the run last season and likely won’t rank much more highly this season, but the change in Warren’s running style still made a big difference.

The long touchdown run on the direct snap was only one of many runs that featured improved pad level and toughness from the junior. The speed in the open field has always been there — in high school, he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at over 230 pounds.

Since the ‘Horns are intent on establishing a physical identity for the team on the ground, expect Warren to have plenty more opportunities.

“We need to run the ball,” Herman said. “We've got an above-average offensive line. We've got good tailbacks. That's who we are. That's what we believe in.”

Now the coaches have a little more reason to believe in the product that Warren can put out on the field.