FAYETTEVILLE — Senior wide receiver De’Vion Warren has been known as a kick returner for the University of Arkansas, but this season he is also making a big mark on offense.
In Saturday night’s 21-14 win over Mississippi State, Warren caught four passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 28-yard reception in the season opener against Georgia. That is pretty remarkable considering he had eight catches for 38 yards and one touchdown in three years prior to this fall.
Following Tuesday’s practice, Warren talked about his career game against Mississippi State.
“It felt great not just for me, but for the team in general because that was just a monumental win for us,” Warren said. “A monumental win for Coach [Sam Pittman]. It’s been a rough couple of years. I know for the seniors it was just amazing to go win that game. It was great vibes and great energy. I just love the way we played the whole game.”
Coming into the season, Arkansas returned Treylon Burks, Trey Knox and Mike Woods. The three combined to catch 90 passes last fall for 1,283 yards and seven touchdowns. Despite that and all three being productive again this season, Warren has made a strong impression on Pittman.
“On both our touchdown passes, they lost guys,” Pittman said. “They had mental errors in the secondary it looked to me like. But De’Vion has speed, quickness, he can separate on breaks and he’s fast. He’s really done a good job. Coming in here I didn’t know where he would be on the depth chart, even coming in to fall camp. In my eyes, he’s a starter. Because when he’s out there I’m happy he’s out there. A lot of times you get someone out there and you go ‘Oh man where’s the starter’ and that’s not the case with him out there. Very, very confident in him.”
Warren talked about Pittman saying he considers him a starter.
“I didn’t even know that,” Warren said. “It’s just about being able to go out there and know what you are doing and how to do it without losing a beat. That’s how you practice, how you study film. You’ve got to have the mindset that even if you aren’t on the field first you always will always get a chance to get in. You never know what will happen. You just have to be ready when your moment comes.”
Warren got a chance to shine on Saturday when Burks left the game early with an injury. Warren talked about staying prepared at all times.
“Just waiting your turn,” Warren said. “Just continue to work hard. I’ve always been told that when you get a chance you make the most of the opportunity. This year that’s what I have done. Just made the best of what I can do to help the team and just so happened it has happened to be more at receiver than special teams. So it’s just me giving me giving my best in everything. Just taking the opportunities that I have been given.”
In past seasons when the Hogs lost a star player such as Burks and others on Saturday night they might have folded. Warren and this group didn’t.
“It’s just the way Coach Pitt has come in and changed our mindset,” Warren said. “It’s next guys up. Yes, those guys are great, they’re all-stars, they’re our best people on the field. If something happens, you always have to be ready, no matter who you are, no matter what you role. Coach Pittman always says that everybody’s important and it just so happens last Saturday everybody became important. You just have to know your role and take that chance when you get in.”
As Pittman promised on Monday considering the forecast for possibly heavy rain on Saturday at Auburn, Warren said the team is practicing with wet balls.
“Actually we are practicing with wet balls,” Warren said. “We are getting extra work with wet balls for everybody including centers, quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. So we’ve got to just focus a little bit harder when you have the wet balls.”
If it is wet on Saturday, Warren has mixed emotions when he did that in high school.
“Hurricane conditions?,” Warren said. “I haven’t played in hurricane conditions but I’ve played in wet and rainy and muddy conditions and let me tell you it is not very fun. You’re slipping and sliding everywhere and everybody’s just all over the place, getting stuck in the mud. You might lose a couple of shoes, socks. It’s a whole bunch of just mess and then you’ve got to take that off. Oooh, that’s just, it ain’t too pretty. But it’s fun though! It’s actually pretty fun.”
Despite being 1-1 on the season when most forecast 0-2 at this point, particularly after Mississippi State topped LSU, the offense still hasn’t completely clicked. What will it take to get the offense firing on all cylinders?
“We just have to limit our mistakes,” Warren said. “We kill ourselves sometimes. We just have to work on our fundamentals, work on our mindset and remember that we don’t do anything out of our job. Make sure we do our job every play, every single down. If we just do our job we’ll be perfectly fine.”
Are you confident the team can get that done?
“Yes, if we do our job, have very good practices, make sure we eliminate the mental errors we’ll be perfectly fine,” Warren said.
Warren and the Razorbacks will face Auburn at 3 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.