Loss of Pittman will Hurt

Fans and media alike learned Tuesday that Cougar cornerback G Pittman will be transferring from the program primarily due to academic issues. With the loss of Pittman the Cougar program loses a lot, as he was the most talented incoming high school cornerback this observer has seen in his seven years covering the program.

G Pittman came to BYU as a 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound cornerback prospect from Rancho Cucamonga, California. Pittman was passed over by many schools during the recruiting process, in part because he experienced a late growth spurt that occurred as BYU started recruiting him. While many schools tried to rush to Pittman to acquire his services, Pittman felt secure with BYU and signed there.

Pittman arrived with his parents about a week before his first fall practice session commenced in 2007. During that time Pittman did all he could to be acclimated to the high-mountain air that he was not used to. When talking to Pittman during that time, I found a very confident and determined young man who was very grateful for the opportunities he'd have at BYU.

During any practice session the new freshmen struggle initially. For most freshmen, you can't really gauge what impact they may have until they get more comfortable with the practice routine and get over the conditioning battle, among other factors. This is the rule for most incoming players, but there are exceptions.

Pittman was certainly one of those exceptions. During most drills that Pittman ran against the other new freshmen, he was completely dominant. When he ran drills against the existing second- and third-team players on the team, one could readily see his potential as the sort of athlete BYU rarely signs out of high school at the cornerback position.

Pittman showed extreme confidence and aggressiveness in his style. He showed great feet and a physical presence that wasn't afraid to mix it up with anyone during a practice session. I readily assessed that he'd likely redshirt that year while playing behind then-starter Kayle Buchanan and making a strong bid to start next season.

As the 2008 fall practice session started, Pittman was behind Brandon Howard on the depth chart, but was moving up. There are many on this site that have wondered why Pittman, if he was so talented, didn't start as this season began, and the explanation is relatively simple.

Pittman bit in coverage too much as fall practices started. His aggressive style, while helpful at times, perhaps prevented him from earning the coaches' trust, as he was being beat too many times in coverage with double moves. This was the big advantage Howard had over him, and is why he was ahead of him on the depth chart.

As fall practices drew on, Pittman made the necessary strides and ended a lot of practice sessions with better outings than Howard. He was beginning to make his move on the starting spot, as Coach Mendenhall mentioned after most practice sessions that the field corner spot was still open. Pittman was playing more disciplined and was poised to make his play on the starting spot.

Then Pittman got hurt at the most unfortunate time imaginable. As the team prepped for their final scrimmage, it was to be Pittman's time to prove he could be trusted at field corner and could be considered to start there. But in the week before the final scrimmage, Pittman got hurt and wasn't able to perform until a week after, which wasn't enough time to grab the starting role from Howard.

It was shortly thereafter when Pittman's troubles began to surface. While he logged some playing time early on in the season, he could have been asked to fill in for Howard a couple of times as Howard struggled somewhat in games against New Mexico and TCU. But it was at that time that Pittman was serving an indefinite suspension for academic issues.

While it's difficult to say how much he would have played this year, it is readily obvious that he had a big future on the field while at BYU. While Howard may have staved him off for another year, the field corner spot was all but his for at least his junior and senior seasons.

It was only a matter of time with Pittman to learn the coverages and prove trustworthy to coaches before he manned the primary field cornerback duties, and he likely would have finished up there as one of the best ever at BYU. Pittman had it all athletically and likely would have ended this season playing a role within the secondary ranks if he had been able to apply himself fully to the football program and to school.

Unfortunately Pittman did not apply himself fully and began exploring other options. As he fell behind more and more academically, Pittman determined that BYU was not the place for him and decided to transfer after this semester. While we'll miss him, we wish him well.

What BYU loses is a talent at the cornerback position that they rarely if ever enjoy for a four-year period. Pittman had the type of talent that could have allowed defensive coordinator Jaime Hill to tweak his coverages, much as he has done with the emergence of Brandon Bradley. Pittman had that sort of talent.

Pittman was not LDS, but came from a strong religious background that made him a good fit at BYU when he signed, or at least that appeared to be the case. It's very regretful that Pittman wasn't able to acclimate himself to the program and school fully in order to succeed. Hopefully this doesn't become a trend with talented non-LDS athletes such as Pittman, as the football program could benefit greatly from such players with similar talent.

I had been raving most of this year about how the talent and depth at the cornerback position has never been more promising at BYU in my seven years covering the program. With the departure of Pittman, that pronouncement requires some serious editing. Pittman was that good and he in and of himself was one of the main factors that led me to make those statements.

There are other options currently within the program or set to join the program after missions, but none of these options shined quite as bright as G Pittman. BYU will move on, but make no mistake about it, the loss of Pittman hurts.

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