Pitt, for the second year in a row, has successfully tapped into the talent rich state of New Jersey. The Panthers have received a commitment from a pair of talented Garden State offensive linemen: Wayne (NJ) Passaic County Technical Institute’s Carter Warren (6-foot-6 inches, 320 pounds) and Montclair (NJ) Montclair High School’s Owen Drexel (6-foot-4 inches, 280 pounds). To gain perspective on both linemen, I reached out to a coach that has been vital in their development, Pro E.D.G.E. co-founder Sameeh McDonald.
Pro E.D.G.E. (Elevating Development to Gain Excellence) was founded by former Rutgers Scarlet Knight’s offensive linemen Sameeh McDonald and J’Vonne Parker. Its mission is to provide athletes with an opportunity to receive top-notch football training, mentoring and academic resources.
Coach McDonald, tell our readers more about your background and Pro E.D.G.E.
As for my background, I played college football at Rutgers. I was the starting offensive tackle for four years and started 38 games in my career there. I went undrafted coming out of college but I did get an opportunity as a free agent and was in camp with the Giants and ended up with the Seahawks. I played a year also in NFL Europe and also indoor ball for arena football league.
I stopped playing in 2010 and then I met up with an old teammate of mine and that’s when we came up with the idea of starting Pro E.D.G.E. We pretty much founded it in 2011. We really got it off the ground and running in 2013 and it was designed to be a training facility that started off and designed specifically for offensive lineman and defensive lineman.
We came up with the idea because we noticed that a lot of high school athletes and even some guys in college weren’t getting the proper fundamentals that they needed to be successful early in their career. There are different reasons for this like including lack of their quality coaching from their high school staff or just a lack of attention that that staff paid to the fundamentals. In the off season there are a lot of 7-on-7 camps for the skill guys and all these passing camps for the development for speed. There was never really anything for the lineman to do in the off season outside of strong man competition and things that really just focused on being big and strong but not teaching them the game.
So when we came up for the idea for Pro E.D.G.E it was for the O-line and D-line guys and you know, we started off with a few guys around the state and now it’s turned into pretty much one of the places where most of the lineman in the state come to train every off season and they’re focusing on getting their fundamentals together and really honing in on their craft. And now we’ve recently added in strength training that’s more designed with what they do on the field and different things like stretching and yoga that’s all designed for big man purposes.
Pitt has started a Garden State pipeline during the Narduzzi era. A pair of 2016 prospects, Phil Campbell and Maurice Ffrench, committed a year ago and the Panthers added a trio of 2017 commitments: quarterback Kenny Pickett and offensive linemen Owen Drexel and Carter Warren. Thankfully you have worked with both linemen. Let’s start with Owen Drexel. Tell our readers about Owen as a player and person.
I’ll start as a player. Owen is the type of kid; he’s really self-driven and particular in everything that he does. He’s a really good kid. He always wants to see the best for the people around him.
When I first met him he was at Montclair high school and even though he had this success he wasn’t necessarily getting the attention that he wanted for the type of player that he was. His mindset was more so, and his parents, was more so focused on where he’s going to go to school academically because he was part of the national honors’ society. He’s right below a 4.0 GPA and he could easily go to school, Ivy League, if he wanted to academically or athletically. So when you meet a kid like that, in order to be that successful in a classroom, you have to be self-motivated. He took that same type of passion and drive he had in his academics, so when he started training with us back in 2014, it was the same way.
We actually had to slow him down and tell him not to do so much training and spread out your sessions. You don’t have to be such in a rush because he’s very particular. If he can’t figure out how to do something he’ll stay there all day. He gets it done.
When he got into going to camps this part off season we knew what he was capable of and local media that we were friends with or familiar with would ask us who are the guys in our programs that we thought were being overlooked and we always said this kid Owen Drexel.
And nobody really believed us until he got out there this off season and completely dominated the camp circuit from the college camps to the Nike camp. Every camp that he participated in, Owen was the toughest and the scrappiest kid out there. He didn’t back down from anyone.
So he kind of took that and ran with it. When he comes into the facility, he’s the guy that we can use for that age group as an example of how to train, how to approach the academics. He’s the type of kid that even though there may be other guys, such as Carter who’s considered a bigger recruit, the kids around him kind of gravitate towards him because he does everything the right way. And he’s pretty humble about it. That’s my impression of him, knowing him for these last, little over two years just as a kid, a student, and as an athlete. He’s a natural leader.
You see a variety of heights and weights listed for both players. What are Owen’s current height and weight?
Right now, he was just in the facility this past weekend on Sunday. He grew again so we’re almost looking eye to eye. So I would say he’s about an even 6’4″ maybe about 275, 280 right now. During the off season he was carrying a heavier weight but during the season most of the guys lose about 10 to 15 pounds because you’re not lifting as hard.
Tell our readers about Carter Warren as a player and person.
Carter, now he’ll probably be the exact opposite of Owen. He’s very quiet and stays to himself. He doesn’t really open up too much about what his interests are and the things that kind of drive him.
But as I got to know him a little better, I saw that he also had that inner determination to be great. His goal this off season was to be an MVP and not only represent himself, he wanted to represent us. He took it upon himself to say that he wanted to make sure that somebody from Pro E.D.G.E gets the MVP. So he’s more like the … has the protective instincts, you know, where he’s not really the type of guy that’s going to go out there and be loud and boisterous but he’ll do all he can to kind of protect the people around him.
And he’s so raw as an offensive lineman because a lot of the stuff that he’s able to do, you know, he’s not even necessarily doing it with the most polished technique, he’s just doing it with brute size and just natural athletic ability. So we focused a lot this past off season on really cleaning up his footwork and telling him not to rely so much on brute power and things like that. His game got a lot better. A lot better this off season and even though he fell short of some of his personal goals at some of these camps and stuff, we saw him mature as an athlete.
Carter has been listed between 6-foot-5 inches and 6-foot-7 inches tall. What are his actual height and weight?
I would say that I’m 6-foot-5 inches tall but the NFL said I was 6-foot-4 and three-eighths inches. So if I’m 6-foot-4 and three-eighths inches according to them he’s a legit 6-foot-6 and a half, easily. My business partner Jovan, the NFL had him at an even 6-foot-5 inches and we both looked up to him. So he’s definitely about 6-foot-6 inches or taller. He weighs no less than about 315 pounds, solid. He’s a solid kid. He really doesn’t have too much fat on him.
It sounds like Carter is just naturally big, strong. All the tools are there, he just needs still a little more honing. Juxtapose him with Owen, a scrappy, determined player and has overachiever mentality. They come from ‘different directions’ but heading in the same place, am I correct?
You’re exactly right. Owen, like you said, is a really determined young man. He had that overachiever mentality and I think that’s why he had to do so much to prove himself to get himself out there. He reminds me a lot of a kid that we had that was from the class of 2014. Even though he was already on the recruiting radar a lot of people didn’t think he was necessarily going to be that good at college and that’s a kid, Tommy Hatton. He ended up going to North Carolina but he also was a guy who went into the camps and dominated, won the MVP, went to the opening, and then played in the All-American game and had success.
Owen’s has that same type of, you know, track going for him right now. He was just recently selected to play in that Blue-Grey All-American game. Most of the guys are going into that game and just look at it as something fun to do; he’s going to go in there and try to really dominate. That’s just his … he feels like he has something to prove.
You talked about the fact that people gravitate towards Owen and obviously you have to assume there has to be a rapport with all of your linemen. They’re all working together. Is there a chance based on the Carter and Owen coming to Pitt that we might see more 2018 talent attracted to the Panthers because of the relationship they have with both?
I mean it’s real safe to say that because when they come in, we got guys that come from almost all over the tri-state area and they develop a really close bond. They talk all the time in the facility, outside the facility. Almost none of them really knew each other before they got there, so I think that was a big reason why Carter started leaning so heavy towards Pitt after Owen committed because he got to see not just the recruiting side but he got to understand a little bit more about the school, about the coaches, and how things work with Owen. All the guys talk all the time. For the 2018 guys there probably is a really good chance we’ll see more guys going there especially with the success that the school, the team, is having this year.
Carter reminds me of former Pitt star and NFL player Charles Spencer. He has that same body type and that same twinkle toe athletic ability in his feet so I just always saw him as that type of lineman like an ACC type of tackle. I played against Pitt and Carter reminds me of the tackles that used to play there.
Pittsburgh Sports Now’s Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru
// Featured image: Photo courtesy of PRO E.D.G.E.