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Hynoski helping clear paths for Pitt's rushing game

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

A first-year starter in the Pittsburgh backfield who put up ridiculous numbers in high school has helped the Panthers not miss a beat in the running game so far this season.

Yeah, you know about Dion Lewis. But actually, we're referring to Henry Hynoski.

He is Pitt's fullback, having taken over for three-year starter Conredge Collins. Hynoski is one of the unheralded reasons why Lewis ranks third nationally in rushing yardage as a true freshman.

"I like to say to my guys, 'Can we run behind you?'" Pittsburgh running backs coach David Walker said. "Well, the first couple of ball games, we've run behind Henry a little bit."

Hynoski was used to running behind others most of his football career. At Southern Columbia Area High School, he compiled the sixth-most carer rushing yards in Pennsylvania history with 7,165. He also scored 113 touchdowns as the main ballcarrier in his team's Wing-T offense. He averaged 11.7 yards per carry for the school, which won four straight Class A state titles.

"There might be 5,000 people in our town," Hynoski said of hometown Elysburg, Pa. "It basically shuts down for football on Friday nights."

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound redshirt sophomore had few illusions of becoming a star tailback in college. Schools either wanted him as a blocking back or a linebacker. Still, he said going from the main weapon in an offense to just a facilitator was frustrating at first.

"The first year or two, it was a tough adjustment, I won't lie," he said. "But then I said, 'Hey, this is my role on this football team, and I'll do whatever I have to do to play and help the team win.'"

Doing the dirty work of a fullback was never much of a problem for the guy who showed up on campus weighing 240 pounds.

"He's one of those throwback-type players who kind of seeks out contact, even when he has the ball," Walker said.

Hynoski still gets the ball every now and then as well. He had two carries for 14 yards last week at Buffalo and can be used as a receiver on some plays. But he knows his primary job is to make Lewis look good.

"I still love running the ball," he said. "But right now, I love blocking, too. I'm having fun. Where else can you just go out and hit somebody?"