Pitt duo want to make mark
Sweat gets in your eyes, coaches get in your face and — at this time of the year — the heat can be oppressive.
Football practice isn't easy, and Ejuan Price isn't going to lie. It wasn't his favorite time of day.
“Everybody knows practice used to be a drag on me,” Price said. “I didn't like practice too much.”
But Price quickly realized the quickest route to stardom — or, at least, a spot on the Pitt defense — went through the practice fields.
“Now I realize if you want to be great, you have to practice great,” he said. “Now, I'm trying to work hard. Getting older, getting more mature.”
Price and his buddy, Bam Bradley, have overcome the obstacles and are carving out spots on the Pitt defense.
Bradley, a redshirt freshman, is entering his second week as a starting outside linebacker. Price, a junior defensive end, may become Pitt's designated pass rusher.
Neither played last season: Bradley simply because he was a freshman safety and needed further seasoning; Price, a junior from Woodland Hills, sat out after undergoing pectoral surgery.
“It was tough,” Bradley said. “But looking back on it, it helped me grow as a man, just learn in life everything isn't going to always go your way. You can't give up on stuff.”
Bradley said he had no second thoughts about Pitt, especially after talking to his mother.
“It's life. You just have to come back,” he said. “My mom always told me that God has something in store for you that you don't even know. So who are you to try to do your will and not God's will?”
There is room for Bradley on a defense that allowed 31, 34, 45 and 38 points last season in losses to Youngstown State, Cincinnati, Louisville and Ole Miss.
Bradley and Price, both 230 pounds with good quickness, could help in pass coverage, Bradley picking up slot receivers and Price rushing the quarterback.
Bradley, who is 2 inches taller than Price at 6-foot-2, likes the style adopted by first-year defensive coordinator Matt House.
“This year they are making it really simple for us, so we can play fast and just run the alleys,” Bradley said.
Price was more comfortable in the 3-4 that Pitt used two years ago when he started five games and recorded four sacks as a freshman. The 4-3 installed by coach Paul Chryst wasn't his defense of choice.
“I feel like I'm naturally a 3-4 outside linebacker,” Price said.
He worked at the new defense and now understands it, he said.
“I am almost 97 percent on top of everything,” said Price, who knocked down a Tom Savage pass at the line of scrimmage Monday. “It's allowing me to play faster, so I love it.”
There is a chance neither player will start the opener Sept. 2 against Florida State. Price is getting work with the No. 1 defense, but Pitt has depth at both ends with Bryan Murphy, David Durham, Shakir Soto and Jack Lippert. Bradley's backup is junior Todd Thomas, who is working his way back into favor after leaving two weeks ago when he was demoted to second team.
“I feel like my spot is one of the spots that (aren't) solidified,” Bradley said. “I try to get better every day and correct everything from the day before.
“They aren't going to take a spot from you for no reason, so if I end up losing my spot, I can't blame anybody but myself.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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