Natural athlete Carter Warren tasked with protecting Pitt QB’s blind side
Trying to identify Pitt’s most naturally gifted athlete is a process without a right answer.
The cornerbacks, running backs and wide receivers run faster than anyone else, but the linemen on both sides of the ball pack the most punch.
Dave Borbely’s money is on left tackle Carter Warren.
“He has the most natural ability, not only as a left tackle, but as a lineman,” said Borbely, Pitt’s offensive line coach.
Borbely has so much faith in Warren’s ability he has trusted him with, perhaps, the most important job on the field: protecting quarterback Kenny Pickett’s blind side.
“He has more raw ability than anybody in the building,” Borbely said. “He’s 320 pounds. He’s explosive. He’s got great feet. He’s got great initial quickness. He can change direction. He can run. He’s pretty damn good.”
Those impressive attributes failed to earn the 6-foot-5 Warren playing time during his first two years at Pitt. The Paterson, N.J., native was redshirted as a freshman and didn’t play a down last season. His first real taste of a college game day will be Aug. 31 in Pitt’s opener against Virginia at Heinz Field.
“There’s only one way to get experience, and that’s to play,” Borbely said. “I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Borbely added he also has confidence in fellow redshirt sophomore Carson Van Lynn.
“Frankly, Carson is pushing him for that job,” the coach said.
Borbely said Warren was “a mistake player” early in their time together.
“I couldn’t get him going in the right direction consistently,” he said. “It was just a matter of me being up his (butt) enough and him deciding to do it. And that’s starting to take hold.”
The turning point for Warren might have arrived last fall in what coaches call “developmental scrimmages” for young players who aren’t getting a lot of playing time.
“We did that all fall, and you could see him starting to come on,” Borbely said. “That stuff really helped him a lot. When we hit spring ball, he was like a whole different player.”
Warren is so excited about getting his first opportunity to play that he blurted out after practice Thursday, “I think I could line up outside and go for the ball.”
Coach Pat Narduzzi can be sneaky, but there are no apparent plans to convert Warren into a pass catcher. Although, who would want to cover a 6-foot-5, 320-pound tight end?
Warren has enough to worry about trying to keep his quarterback upright.
“It’s been a process,” he said. “Jimmy Morrissey (junior center) has helped me out a lot. That has helped me progress in my game. I think I’m ready. I know I’m ready. I’m excited for it.”
Does he have the necessary nasty streak all good offensive linemen possess?
Warren smiled and said, “You guys will see it.”
He gets no argument from starting right guard Gabe Houy (Upper St. Clair).
“Carter gets amped up every once in a while,” he said.
Warren said it was difficult to stand and watch for two seasons, but he said it helped.
“I gained a lot of knowledge, just watching (former left tackles) Brian O’Neill and Stef Millin,” he said. “Those guys paved the way. It’s my time, and I’m up next.”
Borbely is eager to see what Warren can do when it counts.
“Right now, he’s got a few things to clean up, but he’s doing a great job,” Borbely said. “How he’ll perform with 40,000 people in there at night against different colored jerseys, we’ll see.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .