It’s too early to say whether true freshman Dalvin Warmack will see the field this season or not.
But one thing was clear as Kansas State opened training camp with the running back position up for grabs this season — Warmack can play.
Just how much he does play, if at all, remains one of the biggest questions going into the 2014 season, however, with three-year starter John Hubert now gone and very little experience coming back.
“I couldn’t tell you, but I think everybody wants to play coming in,” said Warmack, who moved to Manhattan in early June. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can and whenever I’m allowed to see the field, then… I’m just trying to get the plays down so that if I’m called on, I’m ready.”
Trying not to say too much about the prized Blue Spring, Mo., product, but still saying a lot, K-State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel has been pleased with what he’s seen out of Warmack so far.
“He’s sharp, a quick learner and wants to be good,” Dimel said. “He has good instincts and has good speed, just does the things you want to see him do. I’ve seen nothing but positives from him.”
Warmack rushed for 4,523 yards and 69 touchdowns during his final two seasons at Blue Springs and was the first-ever two-time recipient of the Simone Award, given annually to the best football player in the Kansas City-metro area.
At 5-foot-8 and 182 pounds, Warmack is strong for his size, a shifty runner with good speed for the corners and dangerous in open space — a perfect fit for Bill Snyder’s offense.
“It’s similar to what we did in high school,” Warmack said. “The offense is similar and K-State has always had success with smaller backs like me.”
It’s easy to see why Warmack is already drawing comparisons to another former Wildcat and Kansas City product, Darren Sproles, who saw limited time as a true-freshman running back in 2001.
“That’s somebody I’ve looked up to since I started playing football,” Warmack said. “He came from the area near me and I’ve heard about him since I was 5 or 6 years old.”
Dimel has no problem with the lofty comparisons this early for Warmack, even though there has never been a more productive running back in K-State history than Sproles, who finished with a school-record 4,979 yards and 45 touchdowns.
“It’s great for him,” Dimel said. “He’s not that kind of a guy who will get wrapped up in that. He comes from a solid background and he had so much success in high school — but it was team success — and that’s the big thing. He got all those awards, but it wasn’t all about him.
“He knows how to handle it. He can get as much hype and pub as possible and it wouldn’t affect him whatsoever. That might be what I like about him the most.”
But there’s plenty more to like about Warmack as well, who is competing with senior DeMarcus Robinson and sophomores Jarvis Leverett and Charles Jones for the job.
“His football IQ is really good,” Dimel said of Warmack, who was the first to commit to the Wildcats in the 2014 recruiting class. “Sometimes you get these gifted kids, really talented players and their football IQ isn’t what you thought it was and its like, ‘oh my gosh, this is like the movie, 50 First Dates — you got to start all over everyday. Remember what I told you yesterday? Remember what I told you yesterday?’
“He’s the opposite of that. He takes what we tell him and puts it on the field.”
But is it enough to get him on the field right away? Sproles made a splash his first year as a backup to Josh Scobey and Joe Hall, rushing for 210 yards and a touchdown in six games, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
“If he just catches on and I feel like these other guys aren’t bringing to the table what we need to have, or we get some injuries, then yeah,” Dimel said. “But it’s so early to say whether he would step up and do it right now or not.”
Just having a chance to compete for immediate playing time is one of the reasons Warmack chose the Wildcats to begin with.
“They told me I’d have the opportunity to play if I’m ready,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to compete and I’m not just automatically coming in knowing I’m redshirting.”
So what about those Sproles comparisons?
“I don’t want to be compared to him right now,” Warmack said. “I still have to earn my spot, earn my name in this game, but hopefully one day I can be a Darren Sproles.”