- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Chris Warren III made the most of his signing day spotlight, choosing Texas over Washington by flipping a coin at his announcement ceremony. How will one of the nation’s top running backs live up to the hype in his first year in Austin?
Our summer series of weekly Q&As with incoming freshmen begins today with Warren, the No. 102 recruit in the ESPN 300.
About that coin flip: Did you know where you were going the morning of signing day, or were you truly undecided?
Chris Warren III: I thought I knew where I was going. But the whole coin flip was just a thing to make sure I knew where I wanted to go. The coin flip really helped me solidify my certainty in the school. I wasn’t 100 percent sure, so I brought the coin to help me out.
What have the Texas coaches told you to expect as a freshman?
Warren: They expect me to compete right away. I’m sure all coaches say that. I’m just trying to make sure I feel like I have a legitimate chance to play this year. I’m going to try my absolute hardest to make it impossible for them to not start me. I’ll try my absolute best at that. I’m not going to expect to start, but that’s how I’ll work. If I do, it’ll be fantastic. The next-best thing would be to push Johnathan Gray and make him the best back he can be.
You were offered by Texas back when Mack Brown was head coach. How did Charlie Strong taking over affect your perception of that program?
Warren: Coach Strong brought a different mindset. Coach Mack Brown was more about, ‘You’re going to come here, come to school, play football and graduate.’ Not to say he wasn’t passionate about the job or coaching or anything, but Coach Strong seems a little more enthusiastic about coaching and about the team and getting wins. He really does support getting your degree, he really does, but he has such a huge emphasis on the football aspect and making sure Texas wins. I feel like that’s what helped a lot of kids -- especially minorities -- want to commit and be on Coach Strong’s team.
How do you feel about getting started here in June and the competition ahead?
Warren: I’m so ready for it. It’s going to sound conceited of me, but high school football to me was not the hardest. I can think of so many Friday nights where I thought, ‘Why are we still here? We wasted a night of our weekend. Let’s all go home and end the game now.’
It’s just one of those things. There wasn’t enough competition. I didn’t feel like my skills were deteriorating, but I wasn’t playing to my potential because the teams weren’t hard. Next year is going to be a totally different story. I’m going to be on the exact other end of that. We’ll see how that goes, but I’m really excited.
Do you think this Texas class is capable of sparking a turnaround for the program?
Warren: I strongly believe that Texas can go to the top tier of schools in the country. TCU, four years ago, wasn’t even in the Big 12. Now they’re in the conversation of playing for a national championship. Same with Baylor, who was in the bottom two or three of the Big 12 six years ago.
Texas has been on the bottom of a downhill spiral, but I really think with this class and the class after us can make a strong impact in turning this program around. By the time our junior and senior years come up, we can be competing for the national championship.
Has it been difficult for you to watch Texas struggle the way it has the past few years?
Warren: Not necessarily, but I was disappointed in the fact it was Texas. Texas should not be losing recruiting battles to Baylor and TCU and Texas Tech and A&M and especially not to Oklahoma. You expect more out of the school. When you see them succeed and have all these legendary players come out of there, but you haven’t done anything since Colt McCoy, it’s really disappointing. To see teams like TCU -- who four years ago were kids’ first or second offers because they weren’t that good -- do stuff like that, you get really disappointed.
Now I feel like we’re getting to the point where we’re starting the fire. Coach Strong is bringing a new and fresh attitude and they’re putting belief back into the Texas players and into the Texas program and we’re bringing it back up to the top where it should be.
2dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon