Leave everything to Chance

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's Eddie Lacy was busy trying to pay Chance Warmack a compliment. The tailback told reporters he thought the world of his left guard, calling him his hero.

As soon as the words came out of Lacy's mouth, Warmack crossed the room, shaking his head in a rare moment of insecurity. Not five minutes earlier, the 6-foot-3, 320-pound senior was saying how he thought he graded out "OK" against Arkansas a few days earlier, never mind that the SEC had just named him the offensive lineman of the week.

It's clear that Lacy, who ran for three touchdowns against the Razorbacks, thinks Warmack is better than OK.

"Oh, hey dude," Lacy said, laughing as he met eyes with an embarrassed Warmack walking by. Warmack shuffled out of the room and Lacy shrugged, finishing his thought. "I call him my hero all the time."

If Warmack continues throwing blocks for Lacy like he has this season, he might have to start accepting the high praise.

After three years starting on the offensive line, Warmack isn't one to toot his own horn, but that hasn't stopped others from doing it for him. ESPN draft analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. have raved about his play, ranking him as their top offensive lineman in the 2013 draft. McShay made waves earlier in the season when he called Warmack, "The best guard I've ever evaluated."

It's a far cry from a year ago, when the junior was an honorable mention on just one All-American list. Even this year's SEC preseason voting had Warmack off the first-team unit, relegating him to a second-teamer.

"He's been overlooked for a long time," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I think people are starting to realize that he's probably one of the best players at his position in the country."

Alabama defensive end Damion Square couldn't understand what's taken so long for people to start paying attention to Warmack.

As Square put it, "I met Chance about four years ago and he's the same guy now that he is when he walked through the door."

Square said he had no idea why Warmack had been overlooked before.

"I guess that's just the way things go," he said. "I don't even know who deals with things like that."

The reason Warmack is flying under the radar might have more to do with his position than his play. It's not often that guards are in the conversation as top prospects. Those accolades are usually left to tackles and centers.

But on film, there's no doubt why the praise is starting to come Warmack's way. The way he dominates the line of scrimmage and hits the second level of the defense with a full head of steam is a rare sight in the SEC.

"Physically, he's really strong and powerful. He has a lot of natural lower body explosion and natural power, and certainly uses it, knows how to get his second step on the ground so he can create power and balance and body control," Saban said. "He's a really, really good player."

For his part, Warmack stays away from the hype machine, even when it's about him.

"I really don't pay attention too much to the media," he said. "I just tried to stay grounded and stay focused with my teammates."

But with teammates such as Lacy, Warmack can't get away from all the attention. Alabama's star running back can't help himself from saying nice things about the man responsible for leading his way through the defense.

"I like running behind him when he pulls, it's like a freight train," Lacy said. "You know no matter how many people are in the way when he's getting there, he's going to knock them out of the way. It's a sense of security knowing he's in front of you.

"I'm glad we've got him on our side."