The Northwestern true freshman running back, out of nowhere, appears set to burn his redshirt for the 2013 season. The best indicator: He also took serious special teams reps, which is how Matt Harris settled in.
Get used to number 34. He earned it. Long was focused and comfortable in every rep at Wednesday's practice, with an emphasis on his quickness and receiving ability.
"All of these years led up to this," Long said. "To finally get some first-team reps, it felt good."
We can't be sure of the broader importance. Venric Mark is still listed as questionable. But Long has apparently lapped Malin Jones on the running back depth chart, no small feat for the Union City (Calif.) native.
Long said he spent about two weeks studying the playbook religiously. Though he admitted to still making mistakes, Pat Fitzgerald sees something in his development. The head coach only burns redshirts with purpose. Though nothing is certain yet, expect Long to be worked in these next couple of weeks.
"The fact that the coaches put enough trust in me to represent the team, I'm real excited for it," Long said.
The coaching staff watched Long closely during this practice session. They know what to expect from Treyvon Green and Mike Trumpy, but have more room to employ another offensive weapon.
It might begin on special teams, against Western Michigan or Maine. He'll continue to pick up reps, and now, can prove his worth on the field.
"I'm going to do everything I can," Long said. "I set little goals for myself… I don't know [Western Michigan] very well. But I'm going to make it happen."
These are the surprises you don't prepare for. Today, Warren Long made a name for himself.