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March 27, 2012
What a difference a year makes. One year ago, linebacker Brandon Pittman was still at Leesville Road High School. At NC State's first spring practice last Friday, Pittman was lining up on the weakside with the first-team defense.
It wasn't even a full 12 months ago that Pittman was a wide-eyed freshman just trying to find his place on the football team. The rising sophomore remembered back to the start of summer camp last year and how much has changed since then.
"It's a lot different now," he said. "I got more comfortable, I'm starting to pick up all of my stuff and I'm starting to learn my way around the defense. I remember my first practice, all the freshmen were about 20 minutes late because we had no idea what we were doing. Now, we get to kind of see who messed up the jumping jack [done at the end of every practice] and the drills. It's definitely a lot better now."
However, those are far from the only changes. While Pittman played behind experienced seniors Audie Cole and Dwayne Maddox, and redshirt junior Terrell Manning last year, all three players have moved on, and the other returning starter, sophomore D.J. Green, will miss the upcoming season due to a NCAA suspension. Pittman and some of the Pack's other young linebackers will have the opportunity to fill those holes starting this spring.
"Coach told me I've got enough talent, so I just need to step up," Pittman said. "I've got my head in the playbook and I got in the weight room a little bit more."
Last year was a learning experience for Pittman, who appeared in six games and made a pair of tackles while playing mostly on special teams. He saw action at linebacker against Cincinnati and Georgia Tech before missing a few games with a leg injury.
"Playing as a true freshman definitely helped me," he said. "The first game, walking out to a crowd of over 300, which is what we had at my high school, is a lot different. I was shaking and everything. Then, I got my first tackle against Cincinnati on a kickoff. That got my feet wet, now I'm ready for the full game.
"I'll probably have some butterflies now that I'm in a new spot [expected to play on defense rather than just special teams], but I'm ready for it."
The older trio of linebackers really helped Pittman, whether it was giving him advice on the field, in the meeting room or joking around with him to keep things loose.
"Audie helped me out last year, but really Dwayne and Terrell helped me out a lot," Pittman said. "Dwayne played everywhere, so he knew everything. When Coach would get on me, Dwayne would tell me not to worry about it, not to take anything personally. Terrell would just kind of laugh at me and make fun of me sometimes, but he also helped me out.
"In the meetings, whenever Coach would ask me a question, I would have no idea, but now I'm starting to learn all the stuff now, so I don't have to worry about that any more."
Pittman noted that the position he played while in high school was similar to the weakside spot in the Wolfpack defense that he currently mans. He also noted that he is up from the 205 pounds he started last season at, and now his 6-foot-3 frame tips the scales at 215.
The rising sophomore knows he has the chance to make an impact on the Pack next fall, and he is going to work hard to maintain the position where he opened spring drills.
"I'm blessed," he said. "I love this opportunity I have and I'm going to do everything in my power to keep it."