Pittman Ready For 2013

Brandon Pittman has been a reserve his first two seasons but now he will have a chance to make an impact as he enters his junior year listed as the starter at weakside linebacker.

Brandon Pittman has been a reserve his first two seasons but now he will have a chance to make an impact as he enters his junior year listed as the starter at weakside linebacker.

"I'm ready," said Pittman. "I'm still at weakside linebacker, and I know we're not there yet. But, we're trying to be the best defense in the ACC."

One of the biggest challenges for Pittman and the rest of the defense has been adjusting to different terminology with the new coaching coaching staff.

"We start off reading a little bit different keys, but it's getting back to some of the similarities we had last year," said Pittman. "It's getting a little bit easier. We've been able to play a lot faster."

One of just a few true freshmen to see action in 2011 (six games), Pittman saw his role increase as a sophomore when he started two games and came off the bench to finish with a team-best seven tackles versus South Alabama.

He was also productive in the bowl game against Vanderbilt, totaling eight tackles and a tackle for a loss in just 40 snaps.

A big reason for his progression was the development he was able to make under Jon Tenuta. However, Tenuta is now coaching at Virginia and has been replaced by linebackers coach/defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable.

You can tell that Pittman is high on his new position coach.

"He's a great guy," said Pittman. "He loves us. He takes care of his players. I miss Tenuta, but I was only here two years.

"Coach Hux is definitely a good guy. I like his style of defense and the energy he brings to the defense."

Pittman joked about one of the biggest differences.

"For me, I don't get called the nicknames I did last year," he said, laughing. "I went from Bozo... all kinds of stuff. Some you probably wouldn't be able to post."

There are questions at linebacker. The Pack is looking to replace two starters, middle linebacker Sterling Lucas and weakside linebacker Rickey Dowdy. Pittman is at weakside now, and State is expected to start sophomore M.J. Salahuddin at middle linebacker.

At just 220 pounds, Salahuddin isn't the biggest linebacker, but he makes up for it in other areas.

"He's definitely producing," Pittman said of Salahuddin. "He's getting in and putting in the work.

"He's making up for [his lack of size] by studying and learning the plays. He knows was the offense is going to do before hand. Even if he doesn't have the size, he can get there and still make a play."

It also helps to have back senior linebacker D.J. Green, who missed all of the 2012 season for a violation of NCAA rules.

"I wanted him back last year so bad," said Pittman. "I love playing with him. It's his senior year and I expect a lot out of him. He's going to come out focused... he's ready to ball out."

Even though Pittman, Salahuddin, and Green currently project as opening-day starters, that doesn't mean they can relax. Dave Doeren let it be known once he took over that all positions would be up for grabs, and Pittman likes that.

"He told us that everybody has a clean slate, that's from offense to defense to special teams," said Pittman. "The ones are only guaranteed the first snap in practice, and if you do bad, someone else can take your spot just like that.

"It's competition. Competition makes us play better. You don't want to go to practice thinking you can do bad and still keep your spot."

If that trio does start, the Pack will have plenty of athleticism at all three positions. It has Pittman excited.

"The talent is there," he said. "We have people who can run and people that love to hit.

"We'll see when the first game starts."

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