If you’ve been following college football for any amount of time, you know the pitfalls that come with reading too much spring practice coverage, or at least of reading too much into it.
Every year there is a newcomer or unsung backup that makes an OBJ catch in the spring game, or is at least responsible for some buzz coming off the practice field. Count transfer running back Jaylen Warren as the latter.
But few of those spring stars turn into productive playmakers the very next fall, and even fewer do so as quickly as Warren has. Earlier this week, Mike Gundy was asked if his leading rusher, who’s strung together consecutive 100-plus yard games, is even better than he thought when they brought him on.
“Quite a bit,” Gundy said. “It’s hard to tell at times when we evaluate high school players, transfer players, we miss right? The NFL spends millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars, and they miss.
“So, obviously we liked him from what we saw on tape or we wouldn’t have brought him in here.”
Warren wasn’t exactly a rookie when he started turning heads in the spring, and coaches knew at least two things about him when they extended an offer: he had experience and he’d been productive.
After a high school career that included nearly 7,000 (!!) rushing yards and a Utah state single season record with 3,099 yards, Warren stayed in-state. He went the junior college route at Snow College earning 2018 NJCAA National Offensive Player of the Year and an NJCAA first-team All-American honors. He then spent a productive season down the road at Utah State before redshirting last year. At both stops he made a name for himself with his ability to break loose for an exciting big play.
Cowboy coaches knew that they’d have big cleats to fill with Chuba Hubbard’s NFL departure. And despite a smattering of in-house tailbacks with the potential to do so, they didn’t know if they had that sure-fire every-down back that they could depend on. Warren was the most experienced and probably had the highest floor of any of them in that regard.
What they might not have predicted is just how high of a ceiling he had to go with it.
“It wouldn’t have been fair to bring him in for one year if we didn’t think he could get a considerable number of snaps,” said Gundy. “So we were correct in that. When he showed up and started training with Rob Glass, he made more strides in physical strength and speed development in three to four months than any player that I’ve seen. And it was because of the training that he’s had with Rob Glass.
“Nothing against where he came from, nothing against their training, I just saw where he started and where he is now, and he made huge strides with his speed and his strength, in being here with Coach Glass.”
Those strides in the weight room have translated nicely into strides on the turf. With injuries to other prospective producers like LD Brown and Dez Jackson, Warren has looked the part of RB1 through his last two starts, almost willing the Cowboys to a win in Boise. In his past two outings Warren has totaled 341 yards and two scores while averaging nearly six yards per attempt.
Once again, he’s made a name for himself with big-play runs, as well as a couple eye-popping Barry-esque displays. But most importantly for OSU, he’s been that stable three-down back that the Cowboys can count on.
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