Gerrid Doaks is the running back who captured the imagination of the Cincinnati Bearcats and their fanbase last year and for good reason. But while Doaks made the biggest splash when he jumped into the collegiate football pool, Michael Warren II followed him and doused some onlookers as well.
Like Doaks, Warren was a true freshman in 2017 and came to UC as a three-star prospect. Hailing from Toledo, Ohio, the 5’11”, 218-pound back played in all 12 games the Bearcats played last season, spending time both as a backup running back and as the primary kick returner.
As a rusher, Warren displayed excellent vision and an ability to cut and dart all over the field. He carried the ball 54 times and amassed more than 300 yards, averaging an even 6.0 yards per carry, ranking eighth in the American Athletic Conference. His work as a receiver was more subdued, as he only had five receptions, but that production should tick up as his playing time increases.
Speaking of, Warren didn’t get a real shake in the backfield right away in 2017. He only had four carries in the first two games of the year, which led to 10 yards. In the third game of the season he had his breakout. Against Miami-Ohio he rushed for 51 yards on nine carries and added 68 yards via kick returns. He would rush for at least 40 yards six times during the season, which is a pretty impressive achievement for a player sitting third on the depth chart and contending with Mike Boone and Doaks for playing time. His one and only rushing touchdown of the season came during one of those efforts, as he turned only five touches into 49 yards and a score against Marshall.
As a returner, Warren was pretty solid and actually ranked favorably in comparison to the rest of the AAC. While Memphis’ Tony Pollard and UCF’s Mike Hughes were both otherworldly returners, Warren, who ranked third in the league in yards per return, compiled 439 yards on 19 returns. It remains to be seen if he’ll do any returning this year, but the Bearcats might be smart to just save him for rushing since that’s where his true skill lies.
Warren is still going to be playing second fiddle to Doaks in 2018, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be in for a major increase in playing time. Boone and Doaks accounted for nearly 200 combined carries as the No. 1 and No. 2 backs in 2017 after all. When your second fiddle is just as well tuned as your first, then the symphony will shine all the more. Warren gives the Bearcats that brilliant second fiddle, er, running back.