Pitt freshman linebacker Ejuan Price made headlines during the summer when he decided to transfer from Ohio State to Pitt without ever setting foot in Columbus.
But now he is making headlines for a different reason. Price has caught the eye of coach Todd Graham during the early part of fall practice, and has a chance to make an impact as a true freshman for the Panthers. He is playing the hybrid "Panther" position behind Brandon Lindsey right now, but most assuredly will be used for depth and situational purposes.
Price is just happy to contribute.
"Playing was one of my goals, so I'm real happy with that," Price said during a recent telephone interview.
Price does want to make one thing clear about his move from the Buckeyes to Pitt. Much was written at the time about the impending NCAA investigation at Ohio State as a big reason Price decided to leave. But Price said he always had a nagging feeling that he made the wrong decision, even after he signed his letter of intent in February.
Price is from Pittsburgh, so he says the move was made because he wanted to return home. He stressed repeatedly his decision had nothing to do with Ohio State coach Luke Fickell. Ohio State did grant Price a release from his scholarship, and he is eligible to play immediately.
"The allegations had nothing to do with my decision," Price said. "I was comfortable with Coach Fickell. He was sincere. It had nothing to do with that. I wanted to come closer to home. ... My decision always lingered over me, but I felt like I didn’t want to do that to Coach Fickell. But after talking to my family, they were like, 'Whatever I want to do, I had to do it.' I had to do what’s best for me so that’s what I did."
Price, rated the No. 12 linebacker prospect in the nation by ESPN, enrolled at Pitt in June and got to participate in the offseason strength and conditioning program. But he didn't get his playbook until practice started. On top of that, he had to adjust to the fast-tempo offense Pitt is running, something he wasn't used to coming from high school.
"Everything weighed heavily on me at the beginning," Price said. "The first few days I was winded, and I had to learn the defense in five days and that was hard on me. But lately, the last couple of practices, I've been getting faster and doing a lot better."
Price is a natural pass-rusher, and he hopes to help the team in that area, especially on third-and-long. But he also is looking to get better, and learning behind Lindsey has been a big help.
"I feel like it’s a real advantage," Price said. "Instead of throwing me in right way, this way is better because he’s already played. He’s already made an impact. I can learn the ropes, and it’s making me better. His intensity is something I watch. He helps me a lot with the plays. Sometimes coach lines me up right behind him so I can study his techniques and pass-rushing moves, so I watch that closely, too."