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October 5, 2010

Lewis Or Graham

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 11:06 am

Dion Lewis missed the entire FIU game because of a previous undisclosed/embargoed shoulder injury (“…He didn’t practice all week but as per policy, we weren’t allowed to write about it, ask about it, hint it…”).

Ray Graham ran wild over FIU. As soon as the game was over, Coach Wannstedt tried to defuse any controversy by declaring that Lewis would be the starter against ND if he’s healthy. Though, he did hedge to say that Graham had earned the right to an equal number of starts.

Naturally that did nothing to diffuse any controversy.

You have a tailback that ran for 1799 yards last year, was a workhorse and while his production has been poor behind the weak O-line and teams keying on him; his work-ethic and effort has been there. Lewis missed the game because of an injury and the unwritten rule — especially for old-school football guys — is you don’t lose your job after an injury.

Then there is Ray Graham. He has been highly effective in relief. There are plenty of caveats about a change in the offense, and less pressure on him. But you can’t ignore his production, which has been Lewis-esque of last year. In the start versus FIU, he still put up 104 yards just in the first half. This despite ineffective passing and FIU stacking against the run.

I’m a big Dion Lewis fan. He has a great story as the unheralded recruit that stunned everyone. He has done nothing but good things on and off the field. He has not complained in the face of a pathetic O-line, play-calling that keeps him running up the middle into a brick wall, and an offense that takes no pressure off of him.

That said, I would go with Ray Graham to start. He’s hot right now, and it might give Lewis more of a chance to come in as the change-of-pace back rather than the starting, featured back. Something that might help Lewis really get on-track.

Who cares who’s actually on the field for the first snap of the game.

As long as they’re both out there getting a chance to perform, and performing well, then everything’s fine.

If the new line continues to hold up, and Dion turns back into Dion, we could turn this ship right around and take a lot of pressure of Tito Sensory (who, let’s face it, either isn’t good enough or just isn’t ready yet).

Comment by Jimbo Covert's my Dad 10.05.10 @ 11:28 am

I’m not sure it really matters who starts, and I would tend to agree with Wanny that Lewis doesn’t deserve to lose his starting spot. However, I think it is really important that over the course of the game Graham gets just as many touches (if not more) than Lewis does. Additionally, Graham needs to be in the game on key plays. Starting doesn’t matter, for consistency and the symbolism of being recognized as a started I do think its best that Lewis starts, but the staff needs to make sure that Graham gets the ball…a lot.

Comment by TJ 10.05.10 @ 11:29 am

Graham has earned the bulk of the carries, thats how it works, injury or not.

Comment by Coach Ditka 10.05.10 @ 11:31 am

52 carries and 9.5 yds per carry avg. I don’t care who starts but i do care who touches the ball. It better be Ray. Those numbers are Madden Football like.

Comment by Why me 10.05.10 @ 11:47 am

Dion is having a tough year. Graham is having a great year. Prior to this past game, they were playing behind the same line and the former was still true. Graham deserves the ball until he doesn’t. Don’t be stubborn Wannstedt. They should both get opportunities, but Graham should get more.

Comment by Omar 10.05.10 @ 1:04 pm

lets bring back the two back pro set….give them caries all game….or they can both block for the offensive line….and maybe throw a deep pass for Baldwin…..

Comment by drgags 10.05.10 @ 1:06 pm

Put in Bostick. I am getting sick of hearing about how 2 or 3 star Tino Sunseri has more potential than the now buff ripped 4 star number 3 QB in his high school class Pat Bostick. It doesn’t matter which talented back we have in there if we can’t use Baldwin to stretch a defense.

Comment by David Goldstein 10.05.10 @ 3:09 pm

If Lewis is healthy there’s no reason not to use both backs. But what are the chances he’s actually healthy?

Comment by Brian 10.05.10 @ 3:13 pm

if healthy, you start Lewis. It’s not the rule you don’t lose starting to injury. It is more tha Lewis was awesome over the course of an entire season and against better opponents. Plus, Graham has proven he can come off the bench and give Pitt a spark. Of course Graham deserves his fair share of carries. I never like having a RB go for more than 25-30 carries.

Comment by XBlackMagicX 10.05.10 @ 3:25 pm

don’t forget to vote in the poll.

Comment by wilk 10.05.10 @ 3:37 pm

The creator of that blog says he doesn’t have unrealistic expectations…

Expecting this program to compete for a national championship twice every 10 years is a bit unreasonable. Especially when Pitt has won 10 games only once in the past 20 years.

I would settle for winning the weak Big East this year.

Comment by Brian 10.05.10 @ 4:09 pm

[…] Ray Graham’s performance against FIU did nothing to detract controversy. […]

One of the criticisms I have of DW (or perhaps Cig) is the lack of playing time given to Graham. First, it seems that DW and others on this blog are telling Graham, “Hey, no matter how hard you try and how well you play, you just ain’t gonna start.” I watched a recording of the Utah game on TV and ran back a number of plays. Lewis was not following his blockers well. He ran ahead of the pulling guard instead of taking a cue from him. His poor numbers were not just an anomaly.

My recollection is that Graham was ahead of Lewis in camp last year but fumbled a couple of times in a scrimmage and lost his position. This was in spite of the fact that Lewis got a head start by playing in the spring and Graham did not. From what I read, Graham outplayed Lewis in this year’s camp, but unless Lewis again gets hurt, it’s to no avail. Graham ain’t gonna start and probably won’t get as many carries as Lewis.

In spite of Graham having a higher yards per carry average last year than Lewis:
WVA game: Lewis 26 carries; Graham 1 carry
Cinci game: Lewis 47 carries; Graham 3 carries
UNC game: Lewis 28 carries; Graham 2 carries

To his credit, Graham does not publically complain. Based on Graham’s production and out of fairness, Graham should have received far more carries last year. I am curious on how the carries will be divided in the future. In any case, a message should be sent: work hard and if you are better or equal than the guy in front of you, you will be rewarded with playing time even if the guy in front of you is great.

Comment by BigGuy 10.05.10 @ 5:33 pm

Lewis was absolutely spectacular last year. Let’s not forget that just because Graham has put up big numbers in a few games. They are both talented and should both be given opportunities and Graham needs to be given the ball more, but he doesn’t deserve the start yet. If he consistently outperforms Lewis over the next several games, then perhaps he should get the nod, but I still think its a little bit early.

Comment by TJ 10.05.10 @ 6:53 pm

In fairness, Graham accumulated his yards late in the game vs New Hampshire, on the very last drive vs UM, and the recent game vs FIU. Lewis got the bulk of the carries agaunst the stacked defense of tah and UM.

Nonetheless, Lewis merits more PT. I also think that this will make Lewis better, so frnkly, I would play both an go with the hot hand.

Comment by wbb 10.05.10 @ 6:56 pm


was the 33 yard screen play against miami against the second team defense? there is literally no question that graham has been the better of the two since the beginning of the year. lewis played one good quarter against utah and has been mediocre since. i’m not saying bench the kid because of 2 bad games. i’m saying that ray graham has earned more carries. lewis can earn his carries back with better play.

Comment by Omar 10.05.10 @ 8:04 pm

There should NO Question at all that Ray Graham should be the starter. My God he just almost toppled the great Tony Dorsett’s one game rushing record of 303 yards. I don’t care what Dion did last year, this is this year. Dion had like 30 yards rushing against a FCS school (new Hampshire), give me a fricking break. Graham whether with his running or his pass receiving and YARDS AFTER CATCH (half of santino’s credited passing yards) has the been the MOST DYNAMIC PLAYER for Pitt, no question. Enough with the favoritism (lewis) and the nepotism (sunseri), do you want to win football games or worry about coaching fraternity unwritten laws and offending the Great God of Legacy. ENOUGH !

Comment by VirgilSollozzo 10.05.10 @ 9:01 pm

VirgilSollozzo, you can’t be serious.

First of all, it certainly matters what Lewis did last year. So what if he didn’t run the ball well in a couple of opportunities this year. The kid has done nothing but work his tail off, and is still a very, very good running back.

Nobody is suggesting Graham hasn’t earned alot more touches, but the bottom line you just don’t take the starting job away from a kid after 3 games. Continue to evaluate as the season goes on, but now is not the time.

Also, TD’s single game rushing record came against Notre Dame — Graham’s performance was excellent no doubt, but let’s keep in mind who the opponent was.

Comment by TJ 10.05.10 @ 10:59 pm

He wouldn’t be losing his job due to injury. He’d be losing it because he’s been horrible this year.

Comment by Tony Cancilla 10.05.10 @ 11:06 pm

First of all, it’s been pretty obvious that Dion’s been hurt most of this year. The guy just didn’t forget how to play football.

The key here isn’t who should start, it’s getting both of them rolling downhill to help out the overwhelmed Tito Sensory.

Comment by Jimbo Covert's my Dad 10.05.10 @ 11:17 pm

I love Dion but he’s not running like he did last year — if the line isn’t as good this year, which is likely, its the reality everyone has to deal with…if Dion can’t find holes or make people miss like Graham can, why do we all have to go down with the ship out of loyalty for what he did last year? He’s a great kid, give him 7-10 carries a game, but give Graham the rock 20+ a game. Did the Yankees hustle Pipp back into the lineup and ship Gehrig off to Cleveland? Dion’s a great back to run on delays or draws, but he can’t shake and bake like Ray Ray do.

Comment by Matt N. 10.05.10 @ 11:45 pm

BigGuy, you wrote:

“In any case, a message should be sent: work hard and if you are better or equal than the guy in front of you, you will be rewarded with playing time even if the guy in front of you is great.”

Which I think is hilarious as this has never been a consideration for Dave Wannstedt’s in the six years we have had him as Head Coach.

All you have to do is look at the way the QB situation was handled to understand that competition for playing time is an unknown concept for DW.

Or at the OLB position with Williams starting every game, or …

Comment by Reed 10.06.10 @ 5:05 am

Two back set. One left and one right. Baldwin on the outside. It shouldn’t matter who the QB is in that scenario. If we had a decent line just those three players alone on the field should be enough to strike fear in the heart of any defensive coordinator. This is Wanny’s fault for poor recruiting and maybe Tony Wise’s fault for poor coaching.

Comment by Bobby 10.06.10 @ 12:51 pm

I am old enough to remember when in 1976 Majors played elliot Walker in the same backfield with T.D. because he was to talented to sit on the bench. This “Veer” offense destroyed every defense from Notre Dame, Penn State, and Georgia

Comment by drw 10.06.10 @ 2:21 pm

Absolutely, Elliot Walker was a heck of a back. #33 and #34 in the same backfield!!! Allthough I don’t like show offs, I can still remember him, in the 77′ Gator Bowl, running down the sidelines, then holding the ball back in the Clemson defenders face the last 5 yards. 34 to 3 I believe the score. He did a lot of damage to a lot of teams.

Comment by Dan 10.06.10 @ 6:17 pm

Ray has earned the start ON THE FIELD…9.5 yds per carry….whats the question here???

Comment by PittandthePendulum 10.07.10 @ 9:25 pm

The veer worked well because you had a QB that could run, that being Bobby Haygood, when he got hurt in the ’76 season, Cavenaugh came in to replace him and Pitt didn’t run the veer as much afterward but Cavenaugh was a better passer. So you had the tradeoff there.

Comment by VirgilSollozzo 10.09.10 @ 9:00 pm

As far as what the ramifications of, of playing two guys and trying to split their carries.
The way I see it, you get two RB’s who never fully hit their stride during a game, cause they both need more carries. Graham had more than 170 yards in the 2nd half of the last week’s game after getting over 100 yds. in the 1rst half. And in effect you’re going to get two average RB’s, by splitting the carries. And old schooler Wanny is not going to give Graham more carries even though at this point he’s more dynamic. Both can’t play at the same time in this kind of offense, since most if not all of the running plays requires a blocking fullback. I’m sure they’ll figure out the best way to screw things up.

Comment by VirgilSollozzo 10.09.10 @ 9:08 pm

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