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Freshman running back impresses for Pitt

Kevin Gorman
| Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009

Dave Wannstedt might have concerns about whether Ray Graham can hold onto the football and pick up protections in the passing game.

When it comes to running, the Pitt coach has no complaints.

Graham, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound freshman tailback from Elizabeth, N.J., put on a show by picking up 152 all-purpose yards and scoring two touchdowns in Pitt's second scrimmage of training camp Saturday.

"I'm real excited with what Graham did," Wannstedt said. "Now, will he know what to do• Will he hold onto the ball and do all the other things to trust him in a football game• That is still up for evaluation, but the statement he made today is: 'I have the ability to make guys miss.'

"He did some Shady moves out there today."

That was a reference to LeSean McCoy, the two-time All-Big East running back who left Pitt after rushing for 2,816 yards in two seasons. Graham rushed for 128 yards on 14 carries, including a 65-yard touchdown, and turned a simple screen pass from Tino Sunseri into a 24-yard scoring play after faking out linebacker Dan Mason.

"He keeps showing us why we recruited him," running backs coach David Walker said of Graham. "He makes people miss, (showed) toughness. I was pleased with Ray's performance."

Wannstedt named fellow freshman Dion Lewis, who rushed for 30 yards on 10 carries, the starting tailback Friday, based on his strong spring and steady camp. Graham, however, outplayed redshirt freshman Chris Burns (14 carries for 27 yards) to make a move for the backup job.

While Graham's touchdowns came against the second- and third-teamers, he also played well against a starting unit that was missing ends Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus, tackle Mick Williams, cornerback Aaron Berry and safety Dom DeCicco.

Graham ran nine times for 44 yards on an 11-play, 50-yard scoring drive, which was capped by Sunseri's 1-yard sneak.

"It made me feel good to come out here, not fumble and have the kind of game I had," said Graham, who fumbled his first two carries but finished with 42 yards on 12 carries in Pitt's first scrimmage. "I played hard. I worked hard and did what I had to do."

Ready to redshirt?

While Bill Stull and Sunseri split the first-team quarterback repetitions evenly last week, Pat Bostick took snaps strictly with the second- and third-teamers.

After completing 3-of-4 passes for 64 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown to Devin Street, the junior quarterback was asked if he would redshirt this fall.

"I'm open to it," Bostick said. "Those decisions are out of my control."

Making a move

With Sheard (knee), Shayne Hale (concussion) and Tony Tucker (personal reasons) not participating in the scrimmage, Pitt was already short on defensive ends when Justin Hargrove injured an ankle.

The Panthers moved Nate Nix from strong-side linebacker to left end, and the redshirt junior from Thomas Jefferson had three tackles and stripped Bostick in mid-throw to force a fumble that Nix recovered.

Wannstedt said Nix's move would be a permanent one.

"We had a battlefield adjustment," he said. "That's really what he did at TJ. They blitzed him a lot and brought him off the corner. I know (defensive line) coach (Greg) Gattuso's excited to have him."

Statistically speaking

Stull was 2-of-7 for 3 yards passing and Sunseri 4-of-10 for 36. ... Dan Hutchins made a 40-yard field goal and Kevin Harper a 31-yarder, but Harper was wide left on attempts from 42 and 51 yards. ... Mason led all players with six tackles. Safeties Elijah Fields, Jarred Holley and Andrew Taglianetti and middle linebacker Adam Gunn had five apiece. ... Ends Brandon Lindsey and Jack Lippert and tackles Tyrone Ezell and Chas Alecxih each had sacks. ... Linebacker Max Gruder had a fumble recovery.

Injury report

Also sitting out the scrimmage were tight ends Nate Byham (concussion), Andrew Devlin (knee) and Dorin Dickerson (hamstring), tailback Shariff Harris (suspension), linebacker Tristan Roberts (shoulder) and receiver Mike Shanahan (hand).

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