Rufus Warren (77) was once a tight end at Mississippi State and 235 pounds. Now 305 pounds, he will likely start at left tackle this year.STARKVILLE – In retrospect, the fried chicken and gravy was really what did it.On the eve of each Saturday gameday, Rufus Warren would go to dinner at Mississippi State’s team hotel with the best of intentions. He really did. Then he’d see the fried chicken and gravy and … well …“I always ended up eating two or three plates,” Warren admitted, explaining in salient detail how the 235-pound tight end Mississippi State signed in 2011 became a 305-pound left tackle that four years later will be tasked with protecting all-everything quarterback Dak Prescott’s back side.Certainly Warren’s eating played a central role in this transition, but it’s important to note none of his coaches portray him as the kind of guy who did not try to lose the weight — Warren did for years, scrambling each spring and summer to get down to a suitable size for a blocking tight end. Warren is 6-foot-7, a full two inches taller than he was coming out of Gentry High, so even now while he is a large man, he’s also more solid than anything else.“He’s a big kid that wasn’t finished growing when he got here,” offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy said. “He was underdeveloped.”“It just kind of became a situation for us where you’re almost fighting the inevitable,” coach Dan Mullen said. “Instead of trying to make him lose this weight and stay as small as he can to remain at tight end, hey, go have another burger at lunch or eat a biscuit at breakfast and go play left tackle.”This is all very much a Mississippi State kind of story and a testament to the strength of the program. Sign a kid who was not done growing, develop him and then, a full year before you will lose four-year tackle Blaine Causell, sit Warren down and have a conversation about a potential position switch. Warren served as Causell’s primary backup in 2014, and now as a fifth-year senior is the presumptive starter at left tackle (even though he does have competition, including four-star juco recruit Martinas Rankin).The Sept. 5 season-opener at Southern Miss would be the first career start for Warren, who caught one pass in two years at tight end. Maybe the biggest question mark right now, because there’s an effort, is whether he will have the energy and focus that it takes to play all the time versus on third-and-short.“Now he’s taken the role of he’s going to have to be a 70-play-a-game guy,” Hevesy said. “He’s learning how it’s every play, it’s not sometime here or there.”Can Warren make that transition? Mississippi State is betting so and with complete trust that the player who Hevesy affectionately calls a “program guy” can now be the one that protects Prescott. That’s an awesome responsibility, and one that is not lost on Warren.“Every friggin’ snap, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I just have to make sure that my man doesn’t even get close to him,’ ” Warren said. “That’s what makes it good and fun, but it’s also a lot of pressure and that’s pressure I want to protect a guy like Dak.”Warren, one of three new starters on the offensive line, has leaned on the advice of his predecessor, Causell, as well as returning guard Justin Malone for in-depth scouting reports on future opponents. The first half of the season will test Warren — LSU comes to Mississippi State in Week 2, and then there’s Auburn’s Carl Lawson in Week 4 and Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett in Week 5. A Thursday night game at Missouri on Nov. 5 also intrigues Warren, since no one in the Southeastern Conference has sacked more quarterbacks the last two seasons than the Tigers.“I can’t wait to see what they have to throw at us,” Warren said.Contact Hugh Kellenberger at (601) 961-7291 [email protected] Follow @HKellenbergerCL on Twitter.
Yasin Ben El-Mhanni scored as Chelsea’s youngsters won 3-1 at Middlesbrough in the Under-21 Premier League.El-Mhanni, a West Londoner who plays for non-League side Lewes, was recently handed a trial by the Blues. The 20-year-old winger, who has also trained with West Brom, Bournemouth and Watford in recent months, scored the visitors’ second goal at the Riverside Stadium, where Charlie Colkett and Reece Mitchell also found the net.AdChoices广告Colkett opened the scoring with a penalty after Mitchell was brought down by Jonathan Burn.And El-Mhanni capitalised after a defensive mix-up to double Chelsea’s lead before half-time.Chelsea continued to have the upper hand in the second half and Mitchell headed home Miro Muheim’s cross before Arnel Jakupovic pulled a goal back for Boro. Follow West London Sport on TwitterFind us on Facebook See also:Chelsea give trial to non-League wingerHiddink sensed Hazard’s return to formHazard: We don’t want Tottenham to win the leagueVideo: Newcastle United signing shows off his incredible skillChelsea trialist features in Under-21 gameHiddink plays down Hazard’s Spurs comments