Pullard learning to fill a silent void

USC redshirt junior linebacker Hayes Pullard is following a strong sophomore campaign with a buzzworthy spring. Pullard isn't looking to move to the secondary, but does want to fill the void left by T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey.

It's a difference you probably won't hear on loud Saturday's in the Coliseum, but one that is certainly being felt by the USC defense.

Redshirt junior linebacker Hayes Pullard is stepping out of his comfort zone and into a leadership position.

"When T.J. [McDonald] and Nickell [Robey] left, I had to fill the role that they played," Pullard said. "I've been watching them since I was a freshman, so that's just the step I wanted to follow in."

Pullard was a noticeably fierce but quiet presence on defense the last two seasons in Cardinal and Gold. He was content letting his performance and numbers speak for themselves.

In 2012 as a redshirt sophomore he was second on the team in tackles, making 107 -- just five short of senior McDonald who made 112.

But in 2013, McDonald is gone as is Robey. Which means it's time for Pullard to not only lead with his physical ability but his vocal ability, too.

"Coach [Orgeron] and Coach Pendergast and everybody wanted me to be more of a vocal leader," he explained, "and that's what TJ was saying before he left."

"I think that kind of started happening during the bowl practices," USC head coach Lane Kiffin said about Pullard's new leadership mentality. "I think he made a decision this was going to be his defense and he became more vocal."

Pullard says the transition from quiet role player to vocal leader hasn't been easy, but like anything, he's been able to see improvement over time. "It was really tough [at first]," he said. "It's a process. Starting from day one of spring ball and going to almost done with spring ball now, it's coming together."

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