Scouting the Panthers: Running backs
By David Collier is a junior broadcast major, Meek School of Journalism and New Media
Follow David on Twitter @DavidLCollier
On Wednesday, we took a look at the passing attack of the Pittsburgh Panthers, and nothing sets up the pass more than running the ball effectively.
The Panthers finished the regular season fifth in the Big East in rushing offense with 137.4 yards per game, so it will be pivotal for Ole Miss to make Pittsburgh one dimensional when the two programs clash in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 5.
This is the fifth part of a seven-part series where I will break down each position for the Panthers every Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the bowl game.
There’s no question who is the leader for Pittsburgh on the ground. Senior Ray Graham is a two-year starter for the Panthers and has played extensively all four years of his career.
Graham, who started all 12 games this year, has rushed for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns on 222 carries (4.7 avg.) this season , and that earned him a spot on the All-Big East first team for the second year in a row.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pounder is among the Big East’s best running backs, ranking fourth in both total rushing yards and rushing yards per game (86.8 avg).
Graham has 11 career 100-yard rushing games and ranks second all-time in school history in rushing yards with 3,271 and all-purpose yards with 4,943.
He is also a threat in the passing game. This year, Graham has 340 receiving yards on 36 catches with two touchdown.
Last season, Graham only played in eight games due to a right knee injury, but he still tallied 958 yards and nine touchdowns on 164 carries in his junior campaign.
His freshman and sophomore years saw him play the role of backup, and in his sophomore season, he started two games and totaled 922 yards and eight touchdowns for the year.
Graham is a proven veteran who likes to run between the tackles, so expect a lot of run blitzing from the Rebel defense.
Backing Graham up is Rushel Shell and Isaac Bennett.
Shell, a 6-foot, 215-pound freshman, serves as the primary backup and has played in 11 games this year, running for 562 yards and four touchdowns on 116 carries (4.8 avg).
Bennett has played in all 12 games this season, and the 5-foot-11, 205-pound sophomore has rushed for 141 yards on 29 carries (4.9 avg).
Shell and Bennett give the Panthers quality depth at running back, so containing Pittsburgh’s running attack will take a full-fledged effort for the Ole Miss defense.
Pittsburgh runs a pro-style offense and occasionally uses a fullback.
The two players they use at the position are Mark Giubilato and Adam Lazenga.
Giubilato is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound sophomore who has played in 10 games this season, missing two contests due to injuries. He has three catches on the year for 12 yards.
Lazenga, a 6-foot, 235-pound sophomore, played in all 12 games, drawing a start in one contest, but he did not register a rush or reception on the season.
On Monday, we will take a look at the Pittsburgh wide receivers and tight ends.
Past Scouting the Panthers
Defensive Line/Linebackers (https://hottytoddy.com/a-breakdown-of-pittsburg/)
Offensive Line (https://hottytoddy.com/scouting-the-panthers-offensive-line/)
Panthers Running Backs
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