Not many people knew what to expect from Mike Warren entering his redshirt freshman year. He battled injuries during his redshirt season and found himself buried on the depth chart when the Iowa State Cyclones opened their season against UNI.
While many inside the program had high expectations for No. 2, it is safe to say nobody would’ve guessed he would finish the season with 1,339 yards, the third best total by a freshman running back in Big 12 history. Nobody could’ve predicted that he’d be a consensus first-team freshman All-American or the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year.
Now with spring ball started and the 6-foot, 200 pound Lawton, Okla. native’s sophomore season on the horizon, everybody has high expectations for Warren.
“Mike is a guy that, obviously, my challenge to him is to continue to get better,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said on the first day of spring practice. “Obviously, it was nice to have a great year last year but you know, I’ve said this and I’ll continue to say this about Michael, you’ve gone from being the guy that’s kind of the hunter to being the guy that’s now the hunted. That’s a big change. The expectations rise and that’s what’s hard about having success early in a career.”
The Iowa State offense will most likely rely heavily on Warren in Campbell’s first season at the helm. Sure, redshirt freshmen Sheldon Croney Jr. (if he’s still at running back after suffering a hand injury), senior Mitchell Harger and a couple true freshmen yet to arrive on campus will likely have roles in the running back rotation, but Warren will be the workhorse.
He will likely be on the Doak Walker Preseason Watch List and a lot of people’s preseason All-Big 12 ballots. That’s a lot of pressure for a kid that hadn’t ever carried the football at the college level one year ago.
“Do you have the mental ability to press and get better week in, week out, year in, year out?,” Campbell said. “Mike is certainly under that microscope right now. I think he’s had a good winter. He’s going to have to continue to have a great spring to continue to match my expectations, and probably (the fans and media’s) expectations for Mike.”