Five Against the World: A Guide to Trust and Accountability Pitt’s Offensive Line

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He is around 40 years old. It’s a phrase that can be used, endearingly, of course, for a few veterans of Pitt’s offensive line. In this case, it was Dave Borbely talking about Marcus Minor.

While Minor may be a sixth-year senior, he spent his first four years in Maryland. He arrived at Pitt as a graduate transfer before the start of last season, was slotted into the roster at left guard and hasn’t looked back.

Minor started 13 games last season, and he’s started every offensive snap through six games this season. He doesn’t pretend to be perfect and doesn’t demand the attention of his linemates, but he doesn’t know when he feels like talking, he just does.

So while the team decided stalwart Carter Warren would miss the rest of the season as Pitt entered the second half of the season against Louisville this week, he decided it was time.

Minor grabbed offensive line coach Dave Borbely as practice wrapped up earlier this week.

‘Coach. When you’re done with us, can I say a few words to the guys?

“Of course,” Borbely said, asking a few questions about that one-on-one practice before asking, “Do you need me there?

– No, said Minor. So, Borbely nodded and began to head inside as Minor rounded up the linemen.

Borbely didn’t really want to be there as Minor gave his speech anyway. It wasn’t about him. It was about his linemen, player versus player. And that’s exactly what he wants it to be – how he pushed his unit.

Pittsburgh Panthers offensive lineman Marcus Minor (55) September 24, 2022 David Hague/PSN

“I was just saying we have six games left,” Minor said Wednesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “We have to do everything in our power to get where we want to be. We always knew we wanted to go to a championship, so we have to watch an extra movie, we have to do the little things, we have to make sure our details are perfect.

“We know every game won’t be perfect, but we strive for excellence, so to do that, we end it all here.”

The loss of Warren, the starting left tackle with 39 starts under his belt, was a blow. He is an experienced tackler. He’s a team captain. But even though Minor and Pitt’s offensive line rallied around Warren, the message wasn’t about him. It was about the opportunity to come.

It was about hitting the movie theater as hard and as often as the training ground or the weight room. It was about accountability within the whole unit, and perhaps more importantly, it was about the trust that needs to permeate the entire room.

Borbely knew he didn’t need to serve as a fly on the wall during Minor’s message because he trusts Minor. And that trust is returned. There is an opportunity at hand, and this is where the collective attention must be.

However, injuries have been a constant this season. Warren him out. Owen Drexel has missed a few games this season. Just like Gabe Houy, who worked after an injury during the offseason. That’s three-fifths off the starting offensive line from last season.

Drexel will be back, allowing Jake Kradel to return to his right guard position – supplementing Minor’s left guard position. And that leaves the tackle spots open.

Houy worked his way through the roster after missing the first month of the season, taking 15 snaps against Rhode Island, 52 against Georgia Tech and 25 against Virginia Tech. Borbely halved Houy’s snap count for the Virginia Tech game as a precaution, but when he reaches full health, he returns to the right tackle.

Matt Goncalves started at right tackle in Houy’s absence, but with Houy back to full health, Borbely and Pat Narduzzi are considering a swing tackle role for Goncalves. And that leaves Branson Taylor.

Photo courtesy of Branson Taylor’s Twitter account.

Taylor, a redshirt sophomore with two starts under his belt, is the future of Pitt’s offensive line. But this future is now colliding with the present. And Minor, who played alongside Carter for the past season and a half, likes what he’s seen so far.

“One, (Taylor) huge,” Minor said. “Second, he’s athletic. He also fits Carter’s mould. He’s been doing exactly the same as Carter since he arrived and Carter took him under his wing. … He’s a great player, I’m delighted to have the chance to grow with him.

With starts in place of Warren against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, alongside Minor on the left side of the line, it was Taylor’s first real taste of college football. He features an untaught height at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds (which looks small when you look at him), but he’s still growing in the position.

“I feel like I’ve grown a lot,” Taylor said Tuesday at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “Experience comes with experience, so you just have to be on that court and get that experience, and that comes with playing.

“I have to be better. I’m not perfect, but I have to improve and that comes with experience.

Borbely feels Taylor is on the right track with what he originally expected of him when he recruited him from Elyria, Ohio. He thought he was getting a talented offensive lineman, and the composure that was displayed as a player on the sidelines and a starter on the pitch remained the same.

Taylor’s ability to tell Borbely exactly what is happening on the pitch has been impressive. He is cool and composed despite his inexperience. And as he said, experience only multiplies experience.

“I’m going to try to work like Carter did, me and him worked a lot this offseason, so he’s been my mentor since I got here as a freshman,” Taylor said. “He took me under his wing, so I hope to get the same feedback.”

Minor has seen glimpses of Warren in Taylor before, in the way Taylor approaches extra movie sessions, crushes opponents on the court and focuses on small details to ensure a better chance of success. That’s a lot of veteran traits. Traits that have been passed down through the room.

Pittsburgh Panthers offensive lineman Jake Kradel (53) October 8, 2022 David Hague/PSN

That camaraderie starts on the pitch, but it gradually builds each week. Pitt’s offensive line will meet every Tuesday and Wednesday night, and while Borbely will lead the meetings when needed, he wants to be able to take a hands-off approach.

“The Tuesday before the Virginia Tech game, I said, ‘Look, I want you to watch this, this, this and this. If you have any questions, come see me. So they came here, and I wanted to be player-led because I think player-led teams, player-led units are the strongest units,” Borbely said Tuesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. .

The player-led movement began with former Pitt lineman Jimmy Morrissey, and it continued as it attracted players like Drexel and Warren. It has grown to include players like Minor and Kradel and Houy, and that growth is underscored for younger players in the room like Taylor and Ryan Baer.

It is about reporting not just the individual, but the unit as a whole. Minor originally learned it from his high school coach at DeMatha Catholic, and he grew up in Pitt. It was consistent. Consistency doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes, but it does mean you don’t hang your hand too long and always bounce back. It is recognizing that where there is failure, there is also success.

“We just have to be able to trust each other, that’s the main thing,” Minor said. “We just communicate, we know the game isn’t perfect, there will be mistakes down the line – rookies or not – but just being able to hold each other accountable is really the main thing.”

The task became more difficult without Warren, but that didn’t change the destination. There are six games left in the season, the mid-season is now in the rearview mirror and the objective remains the same as on the first day.

“We know we have to lean on each other because we know as an offensive lineman things get messy,” Minor said. “It’s the five of us against the whole world.”

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