Going into the 2010 season, the Pitt Panthers football team had higher expectations than usual. Playing in a weaker conference, the Big East, as well as returning a boatload of talent, 2010 seemed to be BCS game or bust. While the team finished 8-5 overall (5-2 in conference) and earned a bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl against Kentucky, expectations were not met. Not everything about the season was bad, though, as five Pitt players were selected in the NFL draft and many players made a name for themselves. One of these players is defensive lineman Brandon Lindsey.
Lindsey, now entering his senior year, broke out last season after he stepped in for the injured Greg Romeus. Lindsey had 51 tackles and 10 sacks last year on the opposite end of the line from Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Jabaal Sheard. With new Coach Todd Graham now in charge and a new system installed, Lindsey is looking to make 2011 an even bigger year. I had the chance to sit down and talk to Lindsey about the upcoming season, his new role on the team, replacing the seniors, whether he believes that players should get paid, and much more.
PSB: Brandon, what is the biggest difference between Coach Graham’s approach to the team compared to Coach Wannstedt’s?
BL: With Coach Wannstedt, he told us not to get into trouble and to behave. But with Coach Graham, it isn’t an option at all. We are student-athletes that play for the University of Pittsburgh and he wants us to represent that title and this school to the fullest. On the field, it has to be the switch from the pro-style offense to the spread.
PSB: I see that you changed your jersey number from number 35 to number 7, why the change?
BL: It was actually a personal decision for me to change it. It’s a tribute to my Grandmother; she passed away January 7, the day before our Bowl game this year.
PSB: When I talked to Coach Graham a month ago, I asked him if he was going to keep you at defensive end or move you to linebacker. He told me you were going to be playing the “Panther Linebacker”. I understand it’s similar to what Lamaar Woodley of the Steelers does. How would you describe the position and how do you plan on playing it?
BL: It’s exactly like what Woodley does for the Steelers. I’ll still be the 4th lineman, but I need to be versatile enough to stop the run as well as drop into coverage. I’m going to be coming from the outside, the middle and the other side and bringing a lot of pressure, but making sure we disguise it so they can’t pinpoint where I’m coming from.
PSB: We hear so much about the up-tempo offense that Coach Graham brings, but how would you describe the overall defensive system?
BL: It’s going to be similar to the offense in that it will be a no-huddle defense. We aren’t going to let the offense dictate to us, but we are going to dictate to them. Our main goal is create the turnovers, stop the run and, like you said, get to the quarterback.
PSB: With the speed of the offense, do you think the defensive players will tire out from being on the field so much?
BL: Yes (laughs). It’s going to be a lot more plays for us so we are going to have to make sure we get into the best shape that we possibly can.
PSB: Coach Graham’s former school, Tulsa, was towards the top in every offensive category, but the defense struggled mightily. How do you think the unit will do after losing Jabaal Sheard, Greg Romeus and Dom Decicco?
A: It’ll be interesting, that’s for sure. With Greg being injured last year, it prepared me and the other guys a lot. Jabaal was just dominant and deserved to be the defensive player of the year in the Big East. I want to fill their shoes and take on the double and triple teams, whatever I have to do to give our team the best chance to win. Dom is going to be the biggest one to replace. He was so versatile as another linebacker and safety. All of their leadership will be missed.
PSB: Going into last year, many expected Romeus to be a first-round pick in this year’s draft. His back injury and ACL injury allowed you to have a breakout season. How much of an influence were Sheard and Romeus to you?
BL: They were both a huge influence to me, but Greg (Romeus) especially. We would all work out together in the summer and when Greg got hurt, he told me, “It’s your time now Brandon. Don’t try to do what I do; bring your twist to the game and do what you’re best at. Do what you’re good at and you’ll do fine.”
PSB: This is your third defensive coordinator in your Pitt career, what’s it like to learn a new system all over again?
BL: It’s a process for sure. It’s definitely a lot of terminology to learn to start off with. They take it slow with us at first just so we can get a grasp but then ramp it up as we go. We do a lot of film study to make sure we got it down.
PSB: What aspirations do you have to take your game to the next level?
BL: I definitely feel I have what it takes to make it to the NFL and I’m ready for any challenge. To be honest with you, though, Mike, I’m worried about the “right now” and worried about the BCS. It’s time for this team to win the Big East Championship and the BCS. Everything else comes after.
PSB: Who were your biggest role models growing up, at Pitt, and your favorite football player growing up?
BL: Growing up, my mom and my dad were my biggest role models. They did everything for my brother and me. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here at Pitt. At Pitt, it was Scott McKillop (now of the San Francisco 49ers). He took all of us freshman linebackers under his wing and taught us the ropes. As far as the professional football players I looked up to, it definitely has to be Ray Lewis and Ladainian Tomlinson.
PSB: Coach Graham told me Corey Davis, freshman running back from Texas, is a player to keep our eye on this year. In your eyes, who do you think is in for a breakout year?
BL: Everyone knows him already, but Ray Graham. He’s about to take his game to a whole new level this year. He’s explosive and not just in the run game either. Also, Devin (Street) and Mike (Shanahan). With the spread offense this year, there is no way for the defense to just key on one guy.
PSB: After Anthony Gonzalez’s recent suspension, it looks more and more like Tino Sunseri has the starting quarterback job on lock. How has he looked to you?
BL: Tino looked uncomfortable at first to be honest with you. It was a whole new system to learn, but he looks real comfortable now. It’s looking like he’ll be the guy and I hope everyone has the confidence that we have in him.
PSB: With 8 home games this year, the ones that stick out are Utah, Notre Dame and UConn, all teams Pitt lost to last season. Are any of these games bigger to win in your eyes?
BL: All of the games are important to win. I want to go undefeated, that’s the goal. A few years ago we saw what happened when our focus wasn’t there when we lost to Bowling Green. We want to win them all.
PSB: It’s no secret that the Big East as a whole isn’t the strongest conference, is this the year the Pitt Panthers win it outright?
BL: I have the confidence that this is the year. We want to finish what we started 2-3 years ago.
PSB: What made you decide on Pitt over Boston College, Ohio State, Georgia Tech and WVU?
BL: I am really comfortable here and I liked the coaching staff Pitt had in place. I wanted to stay close to home (Aliquippa), by my mom and dad and all my fans so they could see me play.
PSB: What’s it like to share a facility with the Steelers?
BL: It’s really nice to share the facility with them and talk to them. They aren’t jerks like people may think and they offer advice anytime we may need it. If we have questions about our game, they give us some advice. It’s also some nice publicity for us.
PSB: What are your thoughts on the lockout in the NFL?
BL: They just need to get the deal done already. It’s just hurting everybody and the economy. No one is winning right now and season ticket holders are going to want their money back and they just need to get it done.
PSB: Recently, the Big Ten talked about paying certain players in certain sports. Do you think college athletes should be paid? If so, should it just be an exclusive group?
BL: They don’t need to be paid, but people do need to understand what we go through. It isn’t just a three or four month job, it’s like a full-time job. It’s a full-year commitment and a lot of people don’t see what really goes on. People need to understand the punishment our body takes and the time and work we actually put in.
PSB: Your turn to be a salesman, Brandon: Why should the fans come out and watch the Panthers at Heinz Field this year?
BL: It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere and we are going to score a lot of points. We are going to bring it this year, man. Bring your mom, dad, kids, grandparents, friends… man, bring everyone you know (laughs). It’s going to be a good time and we’re going to bring it.
PSB: Thanks for your time Brandon and good luck this season.
BL: No problem and thank you.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com