Graham + Graham: A potent Pitt formula?

March, 31, 2011
3/31/11
4:00
PM ET
The new Pitt coach might have had the same last name, but Ray Graham really wasn't familiar with Todd Graham when the latter took over the job in January.

All Ray Graham knew was that he had committed to Dave Wannstedt and had played two years for the coach whose offense was ultra-friendly to running backs. But the more Todd Graham talked about his offense, the more the junior tailback liked what he heard.

[+] EnlargeRay Graham
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicRay Graham rushed for 922 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
"Everybody is going to get involved in this offense," he said. "Everyone will be scoring touchdowns and having fun out there."

The new, no-huddle Pittsburgh attack will spread the ball around. But it also likely will give heavy touches to Ray Graham, which seems like an awfully good idea.

Graham ran for 922 yards and eight touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards per carry last season, which ranked behind only Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead among prominent Big East running backs. Graham was often better last season than 2009 Big East offensive player of the year Dion Lewis, though Lewis became the featured back again late in the season.

The backup role was familiar position for Graham the past two seasons. But with Lewis off to the NFL and no other experienced running back on the roster, the path is cleared for all kinds of carries.

"It's very exciting to go out there and be that No. 1 guy, but I'm trying to stay humble and work hard," he said. "I'm getting lots of reps this spring, and the more reps I get, the better I feel out there."

Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee told me last month that Graham has a chance to be the best tailback he's ever coached, which would include West Virginia's Steve Slaton. Graham could be perfect for this system, given his ability to make people miss and catch the ball.

"It's a lot of shotgun, a lot of spread, and I'll get to showcase my hands out of the backfield," he said. "There are also a lot of zone reads, and I think I'll get a lot of one-on-ones aganst defenders in open space. Sometimes we go out of the I-formation, too, which gives me some flashbacks to the old ways."

However Todd Graham chooses to use him, it's a safe bet that Ray Graham will be one of the top offensive players in the Big East in 2011.

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