Pitt Panthers begin the process of replacing their top running back
College Football Videos
Pitt football coach Todd Graham speaks confidently about freshman running backs Corey Davis, Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett and how they will help ease the loss of Ray Graham.
"People will be surprised to see how well they will do," he said.
Then, reality strikes him: The Panthers need experience in their backfield when they meet Cincinnati on Saturday at Heinz Field, with first place in the Big East at stake.
Despite the presence of the three freshmen from Graham's first Pitt recruiting class, expect senior Zach Brown to get the majority of the carries against Cincinnati.
"I am very, very thankful for Zach Brown, I can tell you that," Todd Graham said. "I tell him that every day."
Pitt has begun the difficult process of carrying on without Ray Graham — its best player and perhaps the best in the conference — and Brown is at the center of it.
After spending the past four seasons at Wisconsin, where he became buried under the Badgers' backfield depth, Brown took his degree in history and enrolled in Pitt's School of Education. He is pursuing a Master's in Health and Physical Activity.
"I am a man of faith," he said, "and I asked God to guide me to where it will be in my best interests and I came to Pitt."
Football, however, is far more than an afterthought. Playing time was a major lure for Brown, who also had opportunities at Miami (Fla.) and Miami (Ohio). Graham was the only running back on scholarship at Pitt, and the fit was natural.
Even before Ray Graham's injury, Todd Graham pointed to Brown as a leader, someone other players tend to follow.
Brown is that in the locker room, but he had only 29 carries for 99 yards and seven receptions in the first seven games.
That's more of a testament to Ray Graham's productivity — coaches didn't want to take carries from him — and less about Brown's ability.
Actually, Pitt uncovered Brown's receiving skill after Graham left the Connecticut game. He had only 20 receptions in four seasons at Wisconsin, but he led Pitt with nine for 84 yards against the Huskies.
Pitt is counting on Brown to do better than the 2.5-yard rushing average (12 for 30) he recorded against Connecticut.
"You can't replace a player the caliber of Ray Graham," Todd Graham said.
But he added, "We will run our offense as we run it."
Safety Andrew Taglianetti said he and his teammates are eager for the challenge of playing for a BCS bowl bid, but he acknowledges the difficulty of the situation.
"It's always tough to lose a player like Ray," he said, "not only for his football-playing ability. He is one of those guys in the locker room that everyone looks up to.
"It's going to be interesting to see who is going to step up and really take the reins, whether it's Tino (Sunseri) or Zach Brown or one of the other running backs."
Brown has been instrumental in aiding the development of Davis, Bennett and Crockett.
"Zach has his little puppies with him (at practice)," the coach said.
Davis might play more than the others as Brown's backup — he is the only one with carries (three for 8 yards) — but Bennett or Crockett likely will lose his redshirt season.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Harrison shines again as Pirates clip Reds, 2-1
- Steelers claim former Cowboys cornerback Webb
- High school roundup: Greensburg Salem shocks Gateway in opener
- Secret judicial ruling blocks release of sexually explicit emails
- Franklin Regional security guard fighting to get job back
- Veteran Keisel settles into role with Steelers
- Pitt’s obscure opener still matters
- Trueman sparks North Allegheny’s 14-0 victory over Seneca Valley
- Humbert wins BVA debut
- Pickup takes out 40-foot pine tree in Harrison; officer injured
- ‘LEGO’ night planned at East Park