Let’s set the slumber aspect aside for a moment. Fact is, this one-time tight end has successfully transformed himself into a full-time blocker. And Rufus Warren has done so just in-time to win the left tackle job for the 2015.
The eating aspect? That’s obvious. “I was 305 yesterday,” Warren reported. “I was about 250 my first year playing tight end here. Then as the months went on I gained pounds.” In a big way, too.
But don’t get the idea Warren ate his way out of a tight end career. Rather, going into the 2014 spring semester he was asked about taking a step-over from what essentially had been an extra tackle role to be true tackle. Warren was agreeable…then excited upon learning it meant training table limits were lifted.
The results certainly show. Fortunately Warren wears all that muscle well. He also applied it as a backup right tackle and kicking-play protector every 2014 game. Now, Warren is making his bid for first-team stature as a senior and came out of spring ball #1.
At the other end of the offensive line, too. “Me playing left tackle now, it’s a little different than playing right tackle. Because I’m protecting Dak’s blind spot. I really have to be on my Ps and Qs so Dak won’t get hit. Because we win games because of Dak and I want to be one of the reasons why he doesn’t get hurt.”
That being Dak Prescott of course, Mississippi State’s All-SEC quarterback and clear key to the entire offense. The entire season, really. Warren is rather relaxed about the responsibility of guarding the back-side for right-handed passer Prescott. It’s the job he’s practiced for and a role Warren welcomes.
Oh, and about the practice part? That’s been a strong summer emphasis for every Bulldog blocker. Just like runners and catchers and throwers and such, State linemen—both sides of the ball—have been doing their own unofficial drilling.
“When we’re by ourselves we do hit sleds, we work on hand-placements, stuff like that,” said Warren. “We don’t go all-out because we’re fresh out of (weight) workouts. But we try to do stuff, some days we go outside and some days we go in to the film room. So it’s always good.”
That answers the curious question of what exactly a line-of-scrimmage guy can do in summer, with no coaches around, to practice his craft? After all, a receiver can work a route against a defensive back without instruction. But linemen? Do they ever step into stances, run- or pass-block, and fire off on a pretend snap?
Sort of, says Warren.
“We only do it when we’re doing our individual workouts. And it’s basically stepiin and once we get into a ‘fit’ we stop so to protect guys.” We will pass on the tantalizing idea of who is being protected as blocker or tackler would each have their own opinion.
Otherwise, “We work on our technique and our communication, stuff like that. Just trying to get the young guys to the fits and with how we ID stuff. So that’s what we basically do.” Warren also explains that if not running full-five sets, the tackles stay with tackles and guards with guards and so on to hone specific summer items.
“Then when we work more individually with the young guys.” Yes, including younger guys who might not be as patient about climbing depth charts and finding positions as fifth-year senior Warren has been. Warren himself succeeded in holding off junior letterman Cole Carter during spring competition, who in-turn has to watch out for redshirted frosh like Elgton Jenkins and Ronald Cochran.
The eyelid-lifter of spring camp though involved a newer facemask. The December signing of Martinas Rankin had everyone automatically assigning this juco star tackle to the open left spot. Instead, Rankin spent all spring contending with Damien Robinson for #2 right tackle. Hmmmm. Was that another indication of faith in Warren from the offensive staff?
“I don’t think of it that way,” Warren said. “Because easily something can happen and they move Martinas to left tackle. So right now it’s a competition with everybody going into training camp and nobody knows who is going to start on September 5. So you have to go through camp hard and train hard.”
Preseason camp opens August 3. In these remaining two free weeks Warren and cohorts will continue their informal practicing, stay on the academic track as the July semester winds down, and rest up for the coming campaign. Predictions for the Bulldog ball club are all over the map. Depending on who is speaking when, State players will hear them mentioned as SEC contenders or dismissed as pretenders.
Closer to home the projections are far more favorable. Either way, “We’re pretty used to it now,” Warren said. “We kind of expect it after the season we had last year. We’re just trying to enjoy it before training camp. Because you know, one training camp starts, it’s on then.”
Oh, and just for our information, Rufus…what does an offensive lineman sleep like, exactly?
“You snore. Loudly.”