The Texas Longhorns are moving to an up-tempo, spread offense for the 2016 season. That doesn’t mean a program once known for its physical rushing is going soft.
In fact, one glance at the Longhorns’ backfield and there’ll be no reason to wonder where the beef is. Texas’ two returning running backs are a Franklin Barbecue sliced beef sandwich away from totaling 500 pounds.
Sophomore-to-be Chris Warren III, who burst onto the scene last Thanksgiving with a 276-yard mauling of Texas Tech’s defense, has packed on 32 pounds from last season. At 6-foot-2, Warren weighed in this spring at 255 pounds, according to Texas’ official spring roster.
That’s some significant beef. Think about it. Recently retired Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, three inches shorter than Warren, weighed 215 pounds. Longhorns legend Ricky Williams weighed 226. Warren’s father, former NFL rusher Chris Warren, no small man himself, was 6-2 and 228 pounds when he played for Seattle and Dallas.
Even “The Bus,” former Pittsburgh Steelers heavyweight running back Jerome Bettis, as Ryan Autullo of the Austin American-Statesman notes, was listed at 251 pounds, four pounds shy of Warren’s weight.
Judging by Texas coach Charlie Strong’s comments via the American-Statesman, he’s plenty pleased with Warren’s expanded packaging, and doesn’t believe it will negatively affect his explosiveness.
“You look at him, he’s so big and wide,” Strong said. “There’s no fat there. He can carry it. He may shed a pound or two, but he’s gotten so much stronger. You’re talking about someone who has never lifted weights before. This is the first off-season he’s been through. We were talking the other day and he said, ‘Coach, none of my clothes fit me anymore.’”
Warren’s backfield mate, junior-to-be D’Onta Foreman is not slouch himself, dialing up 238 pounds. However, Foreman’s listed weight is actually three pounds lighter than last season’s 241.
The beef is definitely in Texas’ backfield. And it’s certainly going to be interesting to watch how new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert uses the tandem. Gilbert has stressed that his scheme, while it is no-huddle, up-tempo and stretches the field, is very run-friendly.
That should be good news for Warren and Foreman, and potentially very dangerous news for prospective tacklers.
“I don’t know how many people are gonna want to tackle Foreman and Warren,” Strong said.