TEMPE Ariz. - Montana Warren may have turned 18-years-old just last week, but the freshman safety looks the part, even in a crowded defensive back room.
Warren, who is currently listed at 6-foot-3-inches and 180 pounds, insinuated Thursday that those numbers could be a bit outdated.
“I came early to make sure by the time the season comes, I’m bigger,” he said. “I already gained, like, 10 pounds since I’ve been up here. I’m supposed to gain 10 more pounds over the summer.”
He is one of five early-enrollee freshmen practicing for the Sun Devils this spring, and like his fellow first-year defenders C.J. Fite and Ashley Williams, Warren has received meaningful snaps by arriving early to Tempe.
Texas ➡️ Tempe @montanawarren2 is a Sun Devil!#ActivateTheValley | #O2V pic.twitter.com/ozf4J37uY6— Sun Devil Football (@ASUFootball) December 21, 2022
Coming out of Texas, he was a dual-sport athlete playing football and track. As a junior at Marshall High School, he earned a Texas District 9-5A-I first-team nod at defensive back. He carries a three-star rating on the recruiting-services.
Naturally, Warren is used to the the size and speed of players at the Division I level. Texas high school football is loaded with prospects of that nature. But he also says that the leap in talent has been noticeable.
“Back home in Texas, everybody was big,” he said. “They were just big for no reason. But up here, everybody (who is) small is good, everybody (who is) big is good. Out here, there’s a little jump. There’s nobody where (you look at them) and you’re like ‘he’s just big.’ He’s actually good.”
This spring, he’s had the opportunity to compete against fast and shifty receivers like Melquan Stovall, Elijhah Badger and Xavier Guillory, while also managing the three-headed monster tight-end room consisting of Messiah Swinson, Jalin Conyers and Bryce Pierre.
But, really, it’s more complicated than that. At safety, his responsibilities go far beyond man-coverage.
“In high school, since I was our best DB, (the coaches) would be like, ‘Hey make sure he doesn’t catch that ball. You see that receiver over there? Make sure he doesn’t catch the ball,’” he said. “So, when I came up here, they wanted to play more zone, and my zone-coverage has improved a lot, like keeping my eyes in the right spot. The coaches tell me, ‘Eyes tell lies.’”
Defensive coordinator Brian Ward’s Cover-3 defense allows the safety to play the deep-center third of the field, which was something Warren says was attractive after de-committing from TCU.
That is also worth mentioning. Warren was previously committed to play in Fort Worth for the Horned Frogs, who made a College Football Playoff championship appearance this winter.
“People back home they look at me like, ‘What? Why? What’s going on?’,” he said. “But, you just got to trust the process and go where it is best for you.
“To be honest, I didn’t really feel like staying in Texas. I’ve been in Texas my whole life. Everybody knows you. You can’t really go nowhere and mind your business and just chill. I go to the movie theater, and somebody calls my grandma, ‘Hey, Montana’s at the movie theatre.’
“So getting out here and seeing something new (is nice). This (was) actually the only state that I (had) never been to. I went to every other state in America growing up, just traveling with my grandparents.”
So far, he has enjoyed the mountains, palm trees and Sunday runs to Ike’s Love & Sandwiches. On the field, he has shown flashes in team drills. This last week in particular has been an impressive one for the freshman. On Saturday, he perfectly defended Pierre on an end-zone shot that fell incomplete. During team drills Tuesday, he forced a fumble.
Perhaps it was the legal adulthood that added an extra spark.
“For a true freshman, and (for) the age he is, he is out here making plays at the college level,” safety Xavion Alford said. “I feel like he has a lot of upside (and) a lot of talent. He’s going to be a great player from now, until whenever he’s done playing.
“He’s definitely a guy that flashes great speed, great ball skills, and (he can) kind of do everything.”
As is the case for most true-freshmen, there is an uphill battle for playing time, but Warren is not discouraged.
“I don’t plan on redshirting,” he said with a smile.