Transfer finds home on Pitt's defensive line

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For most of his college football career, David Durham has been a man between positions.

Not that it bothered him. Durham sees himself as a football player, pure and simple, willing to do anything and play wherever the coaches asked him.

He started college in 2010 as a defensive end at Ohio State, then moved to fullback for the Buckeyes the next season. In 2012, he transferred to Pitt and moved back to defensive end.

Entering this season, Durham finally seems to have found a home on Pitt's defensive line.

Durham, a redshirt junior, is the front-runner for one of Pitt's starting defensive end spots. He spent all of spring practices and the first week of training camp working with the first team and is expected to play a significant role in the defense this year.

Even though the move to defense full time allows him to let loose a bit more, Durham said his goal this training camp is to focus on details, assignments and making sure he's playing smart.

"I go where I'm told and try to be the best player I can be, but defense allows you to open up a little bit more," Durham said. "It's not quite as controlled. Even on defense, I still have to be careful and rein myself in a little bit sometimes."

It's easy to forgive Durham for being a little overanxious. He had to sit out 2012 because of NCAA transfer regulations after transferring to Pitt from Ohio State. While he lost a year of football, Durham said he made the move because he felt a much better fit with the Panthers than he did with new coach Urban Meyer's incoming regime in Columbus, Ohio.

Durham was recruited, though didn't receive an offer, from Wisconsin when Pitt coach Paul Chryst and many members of his staff were assistants with the Badgers.

"I just wanted to be with a staff that recruited me," Durham said. "At Ohio State, with Urban Meyer coming in, it was a lot of things up in the air. Where was I going to be playing? What was I going to be doing?"

It also didn't hurt that Pitt was moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference, which meant plenty of games close to home for Durham, who moved to Charlotte, N.C., before his senior year of high school.

He said he already has received plenty of ticket requests for Pitt's game Sept. 21 at Duke and noted that he played against ACC quarterbacks Tanner Price (Wake Forest) and Anthony Boone (Duke) in high school.

"Hopefully I get to sack those guys a couple of times," Durham said.

He'll have his chances, at least against Boone this season (Pitt won't play Wake Forest until 2018).

Durham said he expects the defensive line to increase its presence in opponents' backfields this year. But he also said that, especially against Boone and other mobile ACC quarterbacks, he may have to pull back that aggression a bit.

"We have to know when we can turn it loose," he said. "We do face a lot of mobile quarterbacks in this league, and that's a challenge. It's a challenge when you play spread teams because you have to be able to, not rein things in, but be smart."

Through a week of training camp, Durham said the little details -- footwork, play calls and fundamentals -- have been his focus so far. He credits new defensive ends coach John Palermo as having a big impact on his game the past six months.

Ultimately, Durham is ready to finally get his chance on the field Sept. 2 in Pitt's opener against Florida State.

"I'm hungry, man, I'm hungry," he said. "I just come out every day and try to be the best player I can be for this team.

"I want to represent the school well and represent myself this year."

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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