'He's a marble': Why Jaylen Warren has been an ideal fit for Oklahoma State's offense

Scott Wright

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State’s team buses were on the way to the stadium for Saturday’s game against Texas when Cowboy senior Jaylen Warren noticed the police escort.

“These people are escorting us around?” asked Warren, a first-year Cowboy who transferred from Utah State. “That’s pretty nice of them.”

After the 32-24 win over Texas in which Warren rushed for 193 yards, he was asked a question about his performance.

“First and foremost, I just want to give credit to my O-line,” Warren said. 

Clearly, Warren has an appreciation for his escorts. 

The undefeated and ninth-ranked Cowboys hit the road again this week to face Iowa State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Ames, another crucial battle on OSU’s path to what it hopes is a Big 12 title game appearance. 

And once again, Warren — with his blockers leading the way — will be heavily relied up on.

“When we started the season, I don’t think any of us would have predicted Jaylen Warren would have been the marquee player,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “Well, we’re fortunate. Jaylen Warren is humble, he’s unselfish, he’s tough, and so that’s the mold that we’ve directed ourselves to on offense with his leadership.”

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Fortunate is the key word. 

Had things transpired differently, it would have been easy for Warren to have ended up somewhere else when he left Utah State. 

The Cowboys had Dezmon Jackson and Dominic Richardson, but they expected senior LD Brown to leave rather than take his sixth year made available by the NCAA rule created to aid players during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Had the Cowboys known last December that Brown was staying, they might’ve passed on adding another running back to the stable. But they didn’t, so they pursued Warren. 

“The position I was in, I had a long talk with my family and realized it ended up going downhill for me,” Warren said of his time at Utah State. “I had one more year to prove myself, so that’s what led me to the transfer portal. Oklahoma State offered me and it took no time. That was my first choice.”

The Cowboy coaches liked Warren’s running style, even though he hadn’t played a ton in two years at Utah State. 

“We knew that he was a downhill runner,” OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said. “We knew that in our zone game and our stretch game, that he would hit it the way we wanted it to be hit. He pushes it. He finds the seam. 

“He’s a marble. He rolls through there, it’s hard to find any part of him to tackle. And when he hits you, he hurts you. That’s how we want him to run the football.

“The way we wanted to run the football this year is exactly set up for his skillset. So it’s a nice marriage.”

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Warren rushed the ball 20 times for 46 yards and two touchdowns through the first two games of the season, but going into week 3 at Boise State, the Cowboys shifted and made him the featured back. Since then, he has rushed for 659 yards and four touchdowns on 128 carries.

That’s an average of 32 carries a game since he took over as the main guy. Gundy would like to rest Warren more, but the coach finds it difficult to pull a player who appears to become more and more effective as the game goes on. 

“When he came in here and went through our strength and conditioning development, it changed his body,” Gundy said. “He’s been, obviously, the biggest impact. He’s been huge, not only for the attitude he brings our offense, but his productivity. The guy’s just productive. It’s crazy how productive he is. 

“He takes care of his body. He’s mature. He’s not entitled. He’s thankful for everything that he gets.” 

Warren shows his thankfulness in a lot of ways, including extra opportunities to work out. 

OSU’s Sunday weightlifting sessions during the season are optional, but Warren hasn’t missed one yet.

“If anybody needs Sunday off, it’s him,” Gundy said. “He lifts every Sunday. When we run Sunday nights, he’s out front running. So you have a somewhat rare occurrence of someone that’s this age, living in this world who’s just thankful for everything they have and unselfish and just glad to be doing what they’re doing.”

Warren is particularly happy to be doing it while winning games.

“I was a new player coming in,” he said. “LD had stayed. We had Dez, we had Dominic. So I was gonna play my role. Ultimately, I like winning, so whatever I could do, whether that’s 30 carries or zero carries, as long as we win, that’s all that matters to me.

"My personal stats, I like to give all that credit to my O-line. And thanks to the coaches for giving me an opportunity.”

OSU at Iowa State

KICKOFF: 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa (Fox)