Entering camp, most people had the opinion that how well the offensive line performed, would be a big factor in how successful the 2019 season would be for Pitt.
Last season there were similar concerns and the line gelled and blocked well enough that the Pitt offense produced two 1,000 rushers. Can inexperienced players like Carter Warren, Bryce Hargrove, Brandon Ford, Gabe Houy, Jerry Drake Jr., etc do the same this year?
Following Thursday’s practice, offensive line coach Dave Borbely spoke to the media and gave an update on what he’s seen through the first two weeks of practice.
TRUST LEVEL RIGHT NOW IN LT CARTER WARREN: “He’s got a few things to clean up but right now he’s doing a great job. How he’ll perform with 40,000 people in night against different colored jerseys we’ll see, but there’s only one way to get experienced and that’s to play. I have a lot of confidence in him and I have a lot of confidence in Carson Van Lynn and frankly, Carson’s pushing him for that job.”
WHAT DID CARTER SHOW IN SPRING TO WORK WITH 1ST TEAM: “Well, I would have to go a little bit further to that in order to answer that, he was really a mistake player. I couldn’t get him going in the right direction consistently. We do some developmental scrimmages with those young kids after practice and we did that all fall and you could see him starting to come on. That stuff really helped him a lot and when we hit spring ball, he was like a whole different player because, I’ve said it to those guys since I got here, I’ve said it in my room, he has the most natural ability not only as a left tackle but as a lineman. He has more raw ability than anyone in the building and it was just a matter of him deciding and me being up his ass enough and him deciding to do it.”
MORE RAW ABILITY OF ANYONE ON LINE OR ON THE ENTIRE TEAM?: “Well, 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, yeah, he’s pretty damn good.”
WHAT DOES CARSON VAN LYNN DO WELL? “Carson is really a multi-position player, he can play right or left. Carter can too but Carson is the same type of athlete, maybe a touch slower but not much. Carson Van Lynn has great length, has great feet, he understands what we’re doing. He’s pushing the position for sure.”
ANYONE IN SECOND GROUP THAT’S PUSHING THE FIRST GROUP LIKE CARSON? “Well, I think Jake Kradel is someone you have to mention there, I think Brandon Ford is a guy you have to mention. I think Nolan Ulizio is doing a really good job at right tackle. Jerry Drake has improved immensely but I’m not sure he’s pushing him.But Jerry Drake, I’ve got a lot of confidence in Jerry from an assignment standpoint and a mental standpoint, he’s just got to clean a couple things up with him physically. Chase Brown has improved a ton so all those kids are fighting for spots really. But I would say the biggest battles to me are Carson and then Kradel, either as a center or as a guard. I’ve had to train him at both because I need three centers.”
IS GABE HOUY A RIGHT GUARD? “Yeah, I rolled Gabe in. Last year in practice, Gabe played for us at right tackle, left tackle and right guard. I put him in right guard in practice really kind of looking towards this year. Not before we got Ulizio, I thought he’d be at right tackle and then Nolan has done a good job. I like how Gabe is playing in there. He’s smart, extremely tough and he does everything right. I like what he brings me in there.”
IN YOUR SECOND SEASON, WHAT’S THE COMFORT LEVEL PLAYERS HAVE WITH YOU: “We’ve tried to develop a certain culture in that room of trust, of discipline, of pride, of mental toughness, grit, toughness, consistent preparation and the kids have really bought in. The seniors we had last year really bought in and these kids have too. When we hit spring ball this year, on Day One, I felt like it was December. They were completely locked in. They get it and completely understand it and to answer your question, ‘really well’.”
HOW ARE THE TWO FRESHMAN ADJUSTING: Both those kids (Liam Dick and Matt Goncalves) are doing a good job. I really like, Liam Dick has really played left tackle his entire life and I moved him to the right. He struggled there at first but he’s starting to figure it out. When you do everything left-handed for so long, then going right-handed is sort of a forigien deal but he’s figuring that out. I wanted to look at Goncalves on the left and I really like him. Both those kids just really need to learn how to play with better effort but from a mental standpoint and a technical standpoint but of them are doing a really good job in terms of trying to pick things up to make things right.”