NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Former Alabama left guard Chance Warmack was arguably one of the best all-around football players in the 2013 NFL draft, held last month at the end of April. He was the 10th-overall selection in the draft by the Tennessee Titans and the second offensive guard to come off the board.
His accolades with the Crimson Tide were more than impressive.
Warmack played five games for Alabama as a true freshman then entrenched himself as the starting left guard for the Tide for the next three seasons, earning All-American and All-Southeastern Conference honors for his success as a senior.
Now the Titans need him to catch on just as quickly at the professional level.
“He knows the expectation,” said Titans offensive line coach Bruce Matthews. “He’s expected to come in here and start at right guard. We’re going to push him that way and he’s excited for the challenge and that’s his expectation as well.”
But just because Warmack succeeded early and extremely proficiently at Alabama, that doesn’t mean the transition to the NFL is going to easy. Far from it, said Matthews who got to spend his first moments on the field with Warmack Friday at the Titans’ rookie minicamp sessions.
Matthews said Warmack was the typical rookie in regard to the fact that his head was swimming on Day 1.
“It doesn’t matter how well prepared you are there’s a huge adjustment,” said Matthews. “He’s a very well trained college guy, but it’s a big step up and he understands that. The good thing about him is he’s excited to learn, he’s eager to learn and we’re excited to be working with him.”
And work with Warmack the Titans’ coaches did.
Not only did Matthews spend the entire afternoon session with Warmack, and the rest of the offensive linemen, in individual position drills. So did head coach Mike Munchak. The personal attention from Matthews and Munchak may turn out to be invaluable for Warmack.
Matthews spent 19 years with the Oilers organization, 14 in Houston and five with Tennessee. Munchak spent 12 seasons in Houston with the Oilers. Both played offensive guard and both are NFL Hall of Famers, Matthews a class of 2007 entrant and Munchak from the class of 2001.
Warmack will learn from two of the best offensive linemen ever to play, and will hopefully flourish for years to come. But right now, he just has to work on making it to the regular season.
“Through less than 24 hours,” said Matthews, “[he’s playing] like a rookie.” Matthews spoke to Warmack about treating the next months as steps toward a successful rookie season. The first step was last weekend with the rookie minicamp, and that step will include OTA’s (Organized Team Activities) over the next six weeks.
Training camp will be the next step in Warmack’s development, and then playing in preseason games against “the named guys” yet another obstacle. Finally Warmack will get to the regular season, and he’ll hopefully be on the field Week 1 as the starting right guard.
“There’s a lot of different levels of plateaus that he’s got to experience to really learn and learn what it takes,” said Matthews.
What will having two Hall-of-Fame players as coaches do for Warmack’s development? Matthews said “real-life experience” is a teaching tool that’s second to none.
“Really there’s no substitute for having your butt kicked,” said Matthews. “The good blocks, pinning a guy on his back is a great thing, but at the end of the day when somebody just embarrasses you, that’s something that’s just burned into your memory and you go ‘I don’t want that to ever happen again.’
“No amount of film watching, no amount of playbook studying will substitute for that. He’s got to take his licks just like every other rookie. It’s really a function of how well does he respond and how well does he learn after that.”
Matthews said Warmack is responding well to his first taste of NFL coaching and that he’s a player who desires to be perfect immediately. But even All-American’s from Alabama have corrections to make.
Alabama ran some “NFL-type stuff in their offense” according to Matthews, and that showed up on the field as soon as Warmack put on his helmet, as did his experience playing in the SEC. Now Warmack has to refine what he learned at Alabama, and fix some bad habits.
“[Warmack’s] a guy who’s so physically gifted that he’s gotten away with some stuff, just because he’s so talented,” said Matthews. “That’s what young guys find out; being ‘sometimes right in my technique’ and ‘sometimes right in my understanding of the play’ is a recipe for a butt kicking. You need to be right all the time. He understands that and it’s just going to take time.”
Warmack has time.
There are approximately six weeks until training camp, 87 days until Tennessee’s first preseason game and 118 days until Week 1 of the regular season. Warmack made it onto the field at Alabama in the Tide’s second regular season game of his freshman campaign in 2009.
Expect the same quick learning curve from Warmack as a professional.