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Tag:Ray Graham
Posted on: October 27, 2011 3:37 pm
 

Pitt loses 3 for season, including RB Graham

The Pittsburgh Panthers got back into the Big East race with an impressive win over Connecticut Wednesday night, but in doing so they lost three players for the season, including junior running back Ray Graham, the conference's leading rusher.

Graham went down to an injury to his right leg on Pittsburgh's opening drive. On Thursday, head coach Todd Graham (no relation) informed the media that Graham's injury was indeed season-ending.

Graham, a 5-09, 195 pound junior had been enjoying yet another spectacular season. Overshadowed the past two seasons by Dion Lewis (now with the Philadelphia Eagles), Graham had nonetheless rushed for a combined 1,273 yards, scoring 12 touchdowns. 

This season Graham was leading the Big East with an average of 134 rushing yards per game. Through eight games this season (including Connecticut) Graham had rushed for a career high 958 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He also caught a career high 30 passes for 200 yards. 

Prior to the injury Graham was considered a potential early entry into the 2012 draft. NFLDraftScout.com had Graham rated as the No. 8 running back and 95th rated player, overall.   

Graham could still elect to leave school early and pursue his NFL dream, though the seriousness of his injury may keep him from working out for pro scouts until after the April draft. As such, it would appear likely at this time that Graham would elect to have the corrective surgery, rehabilitate and return to Pittsburgh to play next season.

While Graham is certainly the most well-known of the trio of Pittsburgh players injured Wednesday night, the Panthers also will be hurt with the loss of junior wide receiver Cameron Sadler (broken sternum) and freshman offensive lineman Matt Rotheram (fractured ankle), each of whose injuries will end their seasons prematurely.   

Posted on: September 30, 2011 3:50 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Pitt, South Florida prospects flash NFL skills

Last night provided fans and scouts alike with an interesting Big East showdown between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the South Florida Bulls. For many fans, the fact that Pitt easily beat up on the No. 16 rated Bulls was the main story line. For those of us watching the game with an eye towards several of these prospects playing for NFL teams in the future, the final score (Pittsburgh won 44-17) was just a side note.

The star of the game was Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham, who rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns in the rout. Pitt's big, physical offensive line certainly aided in the production from the 5-09, 195 pound junior tailback, but Graham's vision and agility helped turn several 3-4 yard carries into 10-15 yard scampers. Most importantly, it was clear that the Pitt coaching staff trusted Graham as the game went into the second half. Though the final score argues otherwise, this was a close game early. Pitt went into halftime ahead only 20-17. Considering the success of recent Pitt running backs LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis -- each of whom left school early -- it is wise to keep Graham in mind when considering the underclassmen at this position who may test the NFL waters.

One of reasons why Graham found the running easy was due to the play of Panther offensive guard Lucas Nix. The 6-5, 310 pounder is rated NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 offensive guard for the 2012 draft and demonstrated why throughout this contest, routinely blasting holes in the front line and showing the agility to block at the second level, as well.

On the defensive side of the ball, Panthers' pass rusher Brandon Lindsey enjoyed a solid, but unspectacular game. He was credited with four tackles, including a sack in the third quarter, but didn't show the explosivness I expected from a prospect I'd just included as part of my newest mock draft. Lindsey was often a beat late off the ball and relied mostly on his speed outside to cross the face of the tackle on his way to the quarterback. I'd like to see improved hand play and a quicker inside spin to compliment his outside rush.

On the South Florida side, I was intrigued by the play of senior cornerback Quenton Washington. The 5-10, 195 pounder has been reported to boast legitimate 4.3 speed. Though I would have estimated him at 4.45 based on last night's game, Washington did show an impressive burst to close, knocking away two passes that otherwise would have been caught. He also posted two tackles, including a tackle for loss. I would have liked to have seen Washington turn his second PBU into an interception, however, as he read the play, broke on it quickly and was in position to snatch the Tino Sunseri pass and perhaps take it back for a touchdown. Instead, the ball dropped to the ground in what was a microcosm of the opportunity South Florida lost in this nationally televised contest.

NFLDraftScout.com does not rank Washington as a draftable commodity at this time (he's ranked 52nd currently), but with his athleticism, he's certainly one I am keeping my eye on as a potential riser as the draft nears.



Posted on: November 11, 2010 3:55 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2010 3:58 pm
 

Don't have NFL Network? Scout Pitt-UConn w/ me

As most football fans know, the slate of Thursday games on NFL Network begins later today with a potential Super Bowl preview between the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons. Each club is riding high at 6-2 and in first place in their respective divisions.

Those fans that don't have NFL Network, however, needn't be wanting for good football on this Veteran's Day holiday. ESPN is offering an key Big East conference matchup between first place Pittsburgh and Connecticut.

Pitt's underclassmen talent at wide receiver (Jon Baldwin ) and running back (Ray Graham, Dion Lewis ) will get much of the media attention, but for scouts the real focus in this game will lie along the Panthers' defensive line.

There is a possibility that reigning Co-Defensive Player of the Year Greg Romeus will make his way back onto the field for the first time since the season opener. The 6-5, 268 pound Romeus entered the season among the nation's top-rated defensive ends and a likely first round prospect, but a back injury and resulting surgery to correct a lower disk problem has kept him sidelined.

In his absence, Pitt has received stellar play from their "other" defensive ends. Scouts knew all about senior Jabaal Sheard , who had played well opposite Romeus in the past and has elevated his play since Romeus went down. Sheard, in fact, has emerged as one of the nation's best pass rushers. He leads the Big East with nine sacks and as Pitt head coach Dave Wannestadt noted recently, his tenacity is one of the characteristics that is boosting Sheard's stock with scouts.

"Jabaal Sheard is having a phenomenal year. You have to really appreciate what he is going through to get to the passer. He just keeps coming and coming. He's rushing the passer as good as any defensive end in the country. "

As I mentioned in a previous post detailing the news of Romeus' impending return , the Panthers don't have to force their star back onto the field early. Junior Brandon Lindsey has done a great job of replacing Romeus (eight sacks, 12 tackles for loss so far).

Pitt's talented defensive line is arguably the biggest reason why the Panthers sit atop the Big East.

Baldwin and, most notably, Lewis, haven't been as dominant this season as perhaps some had expected, but with turnover along the offensive line and at quarterback from last year, it simply has taken them a little while to get rolling. Lewis, who entered the year as the favorite to be the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, has actually been overtaken by the sophomore Graham, himself a future NFL prospect. The Pitt offense has been playing well recently, however.

One bright spot along the Pitt offensive line is left tackle Jason Pinkston , a potential top 75 prospect for the 2011 draft, whose pro future may lie inside at guard.

Connecticut entered the season as a trendy pick to win the Big East and offers some interesting Day Three talent at linebacker and running back. Outside linebacker Lawrence Wilson is the headlining prospect on a senior-laden group in the middle. Junior running back Jordan Todman has emerged as the next big play runner from Randy Edsall's offense. Todman is helped with the blocking by fullback Anthony Sherman , who quietly rates as one of the better all-around senior prospects at the position in the entire country.

As always, those who would like to scout "alongside" me can follow my thoughts on this game (as well as the Ravens-Falcons contest) on Twitter. Follow me there @RobRang.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com