Lead by example

CANTON, Ohio -- Call it a game day transformation.

During the week Se'von Pittman (Canton, Ohio/McKinley) is your typical high school senior-to-be. He's a bit of a jokester, he's a student and he's a friend.

But on Friday nights, Pittman becomes a 6-foot-4, 240-pound wrecking machine constantly in search of new offensive backfields to destroy.

"He plays the game with real bad intentions," said McKinley coach Ron Johnson. "He's a great young man and he's a funny guy to hang around with, but when he's on the field it's all business."

Last year Pittman lined up on the line with ESPNU 150 defensive end Steve Miller and together they made up the nucleus of the most disruptive defensive line in the region.

Miller has since committed to Ohio State but he left behind an example that Pittman has tried hard to follow.

"I just want to be a leader for the younger players this season," said the ESPNU 150 Watch List defender. "Actually more than a leader, I want to be a role model to them the way Steve was to me. Hopefully we'll win a lot of games and challenge for state but I want to pave the way for the next group of players the way Steve helped do it for me."

On the field, Pittman proved to be a strong apprentice, finishing his junior year with nearly 100 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and six sacks.

"He took in everything that Steve did and he followed Steve's work ethic," Johnson said. "So often players with Se'von's talent can come in and think they know everything but Se'von followed Steve's example all the way."

Many Ohio State fans are hopeful that Pittman will follow Miller's example straight to Columbus and into a Buckeye uniform. And for the early part of the year it seemed like a mere formality.

But things have changed and as Pittman's national profile continues to grow, he wants to see what other opportunities are out there.

"Se'von definitely has an interest in Auburn and Alabama and those are great programs," Johnson said. "There's definitely a love for Ohio State and Notre Dame and a location is going to probably play some part in his choice but some programs really are above concerns about location because they offer so many opportunities."

The offers have come from Auburn, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia and Tennessee among others.

"I've taken a few visits around to some different campuses," Pittman said. "I've checked out Michigan and Michigan State and Notre Dame. I want to spend my summer and get out to schools outside of my area in the Southeast and on the East Coast. Alabama and Auburn have really shown a lot of interest in me and I feel like I should check them out. I love the schools I've seen and the fact that the fans have so much love for their programs."

As Pittman decided to postpone any early decisions and explore more options, trouble began mounting for Ohio State and their iconic head coach Jim Tressel. Currently the coach is under NCAA investigation and will miss the first five games of the 2011 season.

However, Pittman is clear to say that Ohio State's current situation will have no bearing on his decision.

"Ohio State is Ohio State and it's always going to be the school around here and if you go there," Pittman said. "And the situation that the school is in doesn't affect me and it won't be a reason to go elsewhere. I'm going to go to the place that I feel most comfortable and the place that offers me the best opportunity to extend myself academically. That's the most important thing to me."

Right now, Pittman is content with taking things slowly and improving himself as a player in McKinley's offseason program.

"You have to take this one step at a time and try not to let the process get overwhelming," he said.

Where he fits in at the next level is a matter of debate. He could be an outside linebacker in some scenarios or a defensive end or maybe something more. Notre Dame wants him to be a quarterback-hunting outside linebacker and Michigan wants him to be whatever he wants.

"Se'von is the type of player that could be 250 pounds and be a devastating linebacker in a 3-4 alignment," Johnson said. "Or he can become a 285- to 290-pound defensive lineman and do damage anywhere on the line. His potential is unlimited."

Potential can be a scary word, but Pittman is determined to not let his potential go to waste.

"I just want to get better every day and do whatever is asked of me at the maximum level," said Pittman. "Whether it's getting to the quarterback or dropping in coverage or stopping the run. I think I can do everything on the field. Off the field I'm a fun guy and I love having a good time with my friends. But when I'm on the field, I'm making every minute count."

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.