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Top-10 RB Chris Warren to take three more visits before NSD announcement

The final official visits could swing the big running back's decision.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Rockwall (Texas) running back Chris Warren admitted that the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl didn't go as planned, but he was taking it all in stride when he spoke with SB Nation Recruiting following Saturday's event.

After all, one high school all-star game can't take away the 2,329 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns the consensus four-star prospect put up as a senior last fall in a monster return from an ACL injury that prematurely ended his junior season.

Warren wasn't worried about proving the doubters wrong, those people who think that he's too big to stay at running back at the next level, but he did feel like he made a statement his return. Suffice it to say that he did.

The next statement that Warren will make will be his college choice, as his focus will now turn entirely to recruiting in the several weeks heading up to National Signing Day.

He took only one official visit prior to the current dead period when he tripped down to Austin to see Texas on Dec. 12, so the coming weeks will feature trips out to see his other three finalists -- Oklahoma State on Jan. 16, Texas Tech on Jan. 23, and then Washington on Jan. 30.

Since Warren is a bruising 6'2 and 240 pounds now, he's long seemed like a strong fit in the downhill running scheme that Texas head coach Charlie Strong likes to employ as the backbone of his offensive attack. The Rockwall product knows that, but it won't be the deciding factor in his decision.

"I just feel like it's a chance for exposure, it gives me a chance to have a lot of carries in the season and depending on the linemen do, that depends on how successful I can be in that offense," Warren said. "But I'm open to anybody on offense, I'm not just limited to a downhill, power-running scheme."

After the important and potentially program-changing commitment from the state's top prospect, five-star Mesquite (Texas) Poteet linebacker Malik Jefferson, a number of other recruitments for Texas have become tied into his because he's seen a a leader among his peers.

Warren isn't a prospect who has had a close long-term friendship with Jefferson, but they have been growing closer since a recent awards banquet.

"Me and Malik have gotten closer as the year has gone on," he said. "We've known each other from before -- we played each other once in seven-on-seven, but we went to the Landry Award dinner and celebration and we really developed a bond there. I feel like we're becoming closer and I feel like if we were to become teammates, I'd be open to being really good friends and teammates with him."

It wasn't just the pledge of Jefferson and his teammate, four-star wide receiver DeAndre McNeal, that provided the recent recruiting momentum for the Longhorns, as the commitments of a handful of Florida prospects, including two at the Army Bowl itself, helped push the Texas class into the top-10 nationally, along with an in-state pledge at the Under Armour All-America Game.

As much as all that momentum might influence some prospects, Warren said that he'll have to make his own decision.

"Texas has gotten a lot of momentum in the recruiting world right now and I feel like that's good for them and they need it, but I'm not just going to make my decision based off of other kids. But yeah, they've really needed it and it's been great for them."

What may help more with him is the emphasis on academics since Strong arrived. Warren and his mother have been outspoken at times about how much that means to them.

"The changes of the priorities of the kids is what's going on with that," he said, adding that he believes Strong has been improving the academic situation at Texas.

Family ties could help one of his other finalists -- Warren's father, Chris Warren, played for the Seattle Seahawks from 1990-97, giving the family connections to the area that has perhaps helped the Huskies remain a contender for the younger Warren's services.

Considering those ties, the big running back hasn't been able to spend much time out in the Pacific Northwest, but last summer did give him a look at the city and the program.

"We visited there last summer for a family trip and it was really great," Warren said. "We just actually managed to stop by Washington on a whim. It was really great visit. With Washington, I wouldn't be going for the notoriety of family at all. Just what Coach Peterson is doing up there and changing about the program, I feel like it's a great change and that it would be good for me."

Aside from Texas, his other in-state finalist rewarded his confidence this fall.

Over the years, especially under former head coach Mike Leach, the Texas Tech running game often took a back seat to throwing the football in the versions of the Air Raid offense the school has employed over the years. All that changed in 2014 with the emergence of junior running back DeAndre Washington, whose 1,103 rushing yards were the most since Ricky Williams (no, not the Heisman winner) went for more than 1,500 rushing yards in 1998, two years before Leach took over the program.

So Warren admitted that the increased emphasis on the running game had attracted his attention.

I could probably succeed at any of those programs out of those four, but it doesn't matter if I don't feel comfortable. - Chris Warren

"I did notice that," Warren said. "They haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher in quite some time, but this year they had one and it makes me feel confident because I told people that Texas Tech runs the ball. And they were trying to tell me things, but having Tech have a 1,000-yard rusher made me confident in what I was saying before and what the coaches are doing there."

The confidence in the Red Raiders came from the belief that when the school found the right fit at running back, the running game would benefit in volume of carries and production.

The final school in the mix is Oklahoma State. Having taken multiple visits up to Stillwater, the Cowboys won't be in the position of having to sell the facilities to Warren for the first time on his official visit.

"I like their balance offensively, which reminds me a lot of my high school," he said. "And running backs coach Jemal Singleton is a really great guy. Just that bond with him has not necessarily just been keeping them in the race, but keeping them high on the list."

Warren said that there will be a number of factors in his ultimate decision, ranging from his relationship with the coaches to where he can see himself living to his relationship with other recruits and future teammates. In sum, where he feels the most comfortable.

"I could probably succeed at any of those programs out of those four, but it doesn't matter if I don't feel comfortable," he said.

Considered a longtime Texas lean, Warren's 247Sports Crystal Ball sits at 79 percent in favor of the Longhorns, with the only other recent movement for the Huskies (6 percent). Warren plans on making his announcement between his four finalists on National Signing Day.