The talent Markus Pierce-Brewster possesses was never the question. The only obstacle would be how quickly he learned the Syracuse defensive scheme. Apparently, very quick as he was named one of the starting defensive ends at the end of last week. CuseNation.com caught up with "MPB" to discuss the upcoming season.
Early in camp, Pierce-Brewster was lacking confidence in his abilities. That quickly changed, and he improved as camp progressed. Now, MPB is a key cog in the Syracuse defense.
"I would say I was more resilient," he explained. "During Fort Drum I was kind of doubting myself. I wasn't making the plays I should make. I wasn't enjoying every practice the way I wanted to. But I stuck to it. Each practice was getting better and better and better. I think probably just getting my nose in the playbook more was the biggest factor."
After working hard and being named the starter, Pierce-Brewster can't wait to get out on the Carrier Dome field on Saturday.
"It's the best case scenario for me," MPB explained. "It's a little bit surreal. We all talk about it. But to have this opportunity; it's a blessing."
Running quarterbacks have been a nemesis for the Orange over the last few years. Pierce-Brewster knows it's difficult to contain dual threats. However, mixing aggression with patience is the key.
"It's a little bit of both," he said. "It's full-steam ahead but you don't want to get too far ahead of yourself and just go wild out there. It's even worse when the quarterback can run like at Northwestern. You have to stay on your toes.
"I wouldn't say our scheme is to rotate a bunch of guys constantly. We're all schemed in there to play a certain amount of reps. The idea isn't to rotate guys to keep guys fresh, but to get the best players in to play now, play immediately. I'd say as far as our scheme for Northwestern, I would say just be resilient. To keep putting pressure on the quarterback. Our scheme is to try number two (NU QB Kain Colter). We want to see how tough number two is."
"As far as scheming, we're not implementing anything else," he continued. "We all know what plays we're running and how to run them. It's just different scenarios. We're going through a lot more goal line, a lot more short yardage. They're a hurry-up offense or hurry-up tempo with a spread, so it's kind of different the way they run their offense on the goal line.
"It's all about making plays now."
Pierce-Brewster has drawn some comparisons to former Syracuse star Dwight Freeney, mainly because of their speed rushing the passer. However, those comparisons are premature.
"Honestly my first reaction is they're crazy," Pierce-Brewster exclaimed. "I love watching Dwight Freeney. Dwight Freeney's amazing. To be even compared to him is a great compliment. I'm flattered, but I understand there is a lot of work that goes beyond it. A lot of production that goes beyond it.
"I'd like to contribute to Syracuse in the exact same way as he did if not more. But it's flattering to say the least."
When asked if that meant he was going to try to break the sack record, he simply said with a laugh, "of course. I'm going for eighteen and a half."