NCF Nation: Hubie Graham

Impact transfers in the Big Ten

July, 14, 2012
7/14/12
10:05
PM ET
Who are the impact transfers in (and out) of the Big Ten in 2012? Keep an eye on these players who switched four-year schools and who should be eligible this season:

Incoming transfers

Danny O'Brien, QB, Wisconsin (from Maryland): O'Brien hopes to follow Russell Wilson's playbook and go directly from the ACC to the Rose Bowl with the Badgers. O'Brien, who graduated from Maryland to become immediately eligible, is expected to start at quarterback and solve the depth problems Wisconsin has. And he'll be able to play in 2013, too.

DeAnthony Arnett, WR, Michigan State (from Tennessee): Receiver is a major position of need for the Spartans, so it was great news when Arnett was ruled immediately eligible after transferring to be close to his ailing father. Arnett had 24 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman for the Volunteers in 2011.

Kyle Prater, WR, Northwestern (from USC): Prater is still awaiting word on whether he'll be immediately eligible this season. But if he is cleared, the former blue-chip recruit should make a major contribution for the Wildcats with his size and speed.

Quinn Evans, CB, Northwestern (from Stanford): The Wildcats know that Evans, who graduated from Stanford, can play right away. And though he missed all of last year with an injury, Evans could provide help to a secondary that really struggled in 2011.

Brock DeCicco, TE, Wisconsin (from Pitt): DeCicco started three games for Pittsburgh in 2010 before switching to the tight end haven that is Wisconsin. The Badgers already have All-America candidate Jacob Pedersen at the position, but DeCicco should provide additional depth and playmaking skills.

Tommy Davis, S/KR, Illinois (from Northern Illinois): Davis graduated from Northern Illinois and became immediately eligible for the Illini when he transferred earlier this summer. He's a two-time All-MAC kick returner who could help Illinois' woeful special teams while providing depth in the secondary.

Outgoing transfers

Marcus Coker, RB, Stony Brook (from Iowa): Coker led Iowa in rushing and was second in the Big Ten with 1,384 yards and 15 touchdowns. He transferred to the FCS after some off-the-field problems. His departure was a big loss for the Hawkeyes and he figures to dominate at a lower level if focused.
Hubie Graham is going into his fifth and final season in college with his first chance to do what he always has wanted: play tight end in a true pro-style offense.

He thought that was what he was going to get when he made the decision to transfer to Pitt in 2010 after playing two years in more of a spread system at Illinois. At the time, Dave Wannstedt was still the head coach of the Panthers, and he had had great success in developing tight ends like Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham -- both Big East first-team selections.

[+] EnlargeHubie Graham
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireHubie Graham will get the chance to play in the type of offense he envisioned when he came to Pitt.
Graham had to sit out his first year at Pitt because of NCAA transfer rules. Before he could ever take the field for the Panthers, everything flipped upside down. Wannstedt and his pro-style offense were out. Todd Graham and his hurry-up spread were in. Before Hubie Graham knew it, he was playing H-back in a system that did not play to his strengths.

He made the best of the situation, and finished third on the team with 28 catches for 325 yards and three touchdowns, a true testament to his skills as a player and his determination to make his role work -- even though it was not at all what he had envisioned.

Then just like that, Todd Graham was out and Paul Chryst was in, bringing with him the type of offensive scheme that fits Hubie Graham perfectly.

"I wanted to play on a tough, physical, hard-nosed team and be part of something special," Hubie Graham said in a recent phone interview. "When those plans all changed, it caught me off guard. But one thing I've learned is to roll with the punches. Last year was tough, but we're a strong character team. The guys really stuck through it. We did what we had to do, but going into this year, I feel the coaching changes made me realize how special it is to have a great group of coaches. Coach Chryst is a special guy. He truly cares about making each individual player better, so all the guys have bought in and so have I."

As for these changes coming at the right time for him, Graham said, "I'm excited. This is definitely the best-case scenario for my senior year. This year, I just want to fill that leadership role, be somebody that guys can look to on the team for advice and always be out there giving it all I've got. I'm finally excited to do what I've always wanted to do and play in the offense I've always dreamed of playing in."

Already, Graham has gained 12 pounds and is up to 245. He hopes to be at 250 by the start of training camp. Adding a bit more bulk should help him with his blocking, something he has put a major emphasis on this offseason. Last year, he rarely lined up in a three-point stance, and played a lot out of the backfield.

"I definitely want to be a dominant blocker," he said. "I feel like that's a very important aspect of a tight end. I want to be versatile so I'm working on that aspect."

Graham is very familiar with what Wisconsin has accomplished offensively because of the two years he spent at Illinois in 2008 and 2009. But he has also spent extra time this spring and summer watching Wisconsin tape to see how Cryst ran the offense with the Badgers.

He particularly enjoys watching former Wisconsin tight end Graham Garrett, who became a fourth-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2010. Last year, Wisconsin tight end Jacob Pedersen was a Mackey Award semifinalist. And it's hard to forget All-Big Ten performer Lance Kendricks, who went in the second round of the draft in 2011.

"Hopefully," Graham said, "I can mimic their success."
PITTSBURGH -- Notre Dame's defense suffered through a 19-play drive that ended with Pitt's first touchdown and headed right back out after the Fighting Irish offense went three-and-out.

Fortunately for the Irish, Pitt went three-and-out on its next drive. But that came after staying on the field for 8 minutes, 24 seconds to start the second half. Hubie Graham's three-yard touchdown catch made it 12-7 Pitt.

The Irish offense needs to get something going. Its only touchdown came on one long play, and its only two drives of any substance ended with an interception and missed field goal. One thing worth mentioning is Pitt's coverage of Michael Floyd, who had three catches on the Irish's first drive but has had none since.
Time to rank the tight ends. This could end up being a position of strength in the league -- four of the eight teams have a player on the Mackey Award watch list, given annually to the best tight end in the nation.

[+] EnlargeRyan Griffin
David Butler II/US PresswireRyan Griffin caught 31 passes for 245 yards and one touchdown last season.
1. Ryan Griffin, Connecticut. No question he is athletically gifted and had a good season in 2010, catching 13 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown. But new offensive coordinator George DeLeone wants him to be pushed harder, to reach his full potential. Perhaps that is why John Delahunt also was listed atop the post-spring depth chart.

2. Nick Provo, Syracuse. Provo has made himself quite valuable in the passing game, having caught 33 passes for 365 yards last season. Can he stay healthy all year?

3. Josh Chichester, Louisville. Potential is a word that is thrown around a lot in these rankings. Going to use it again here with the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Chichester. It would not surprise me if he ended the season as the top tight end in the league. No question he is going to have a huge role in the Cardinals' offense, especially with questions in the receiving corps.

4. D.C. Jefferson, Rutgers. Another player with mounds of potential, it is time for Jefferson to show why many believe he could be the best tight end in the league. Perhaps a new position coach in Brian Angelichio will help him live up to expectations.

5. Andreas Shields, USF. Shields sits atop the post-spring depth chart following the loss of Kevin Gidrey. He did play in all 13 games last season and started the bowl game. He caught five passes for 74 yards and could be a bigger threat in the pass game this season.

6. Adrien Robinson, Cincinnati. Robinson is not listed atop the Bearcats' post-spring depth chart, but I think he has the potential to win the job over Travis Kelce and Blake Annen (listed as No. 1 now). He is big, strong and athletic and needs to step up with Ben Guidugli gone.

7. Hubie Graham, Pitt. Another player with potential after transferring from Illinois, Graham will play more of an H-back/tight end position and should have more of a role in the passing game than Brock DeCicco. Todd Graham likes them both.

8. John Delahunt, UConn. There is a reason he is pushing Griffin for the starting job. Delahunt caught five passes for 76 yards, has good hands and is a good blocker. No question the Huskies have the best depth in the league.

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