Sunday, April 4, 2010

How Big A Role?

The Ray Graham piece in the PG on Friday got me thinking: Just how big a role will he have this year? This has me at least a little encouraged that he'll be around for the long haul:
Coach Dave Wannstedt called Graham "the star of spring practice," saying he has improved. "Ray Graham's probably had as many exciting plays as anybody out there. He's really come on."

Some in Graham's position might have transferred to see more playing time. But he said he is committed to Pitt, what he called a "program on the rise."
Graham's in a tricky spot, no doubt. He could very well start for many college programs, even good ones. But here he is, in the same class as Dion Lewis, and as long as Dion is here, has little chance of surpassing him on the depth chart.

Meanwhile, Pitt had a scimmage today and it sounds like Dion Lewis had a great day:
Dion Lewis carried nine times for 64 yards, and Chris Burns netted 35 yards on 11 carries. Jason Douglas and Ray Graham combined for 53 more rushing yards on 24 carries, Graham with 22 on 11 and Douglas with 31 on 13, while Mike Shanahan and Jon Baldwin each had touchdown catches.
I think Graham will stick around, banking on the fact that he can still have a successful career in the mold of someone like Larod Stephens-Howling. I think he'll be able to play the same kind of role, and maybe bank on the fact that Lewis will leave early (which is an entirely different issue as there's some kind of stipulation where he could possibly leave after this year - another discussion for another time). It should be somewhat comforting to him that he can look at someone like LSH and see him playing in the pros, despite backing up Shady for the better part of his last two seasons.

I would expect Graham to play about the same type of role this year that he did last season. He will likely come in for a series at some point in the game and maybe get a handful of additional carries. His big-play ability has to earn him at least some playing time. The only question is, how much?


  1. There is an excellent chance that Graham will be the starting RB in his third year in college - something that is the norm at most schools. DW of course has an uncanny knack of throwing true freshman out there and getting results right away. So why wouldn't he stay? He can still have two solid years as a starter with a great supporting cast.

    Lewis can leave after this 2010 season - it isn't a 'stipulation' but the exact same clause that allowed Fitzgerald and McCoy to declare for the draft a year earlier than most - the only difference being that Lewis' extra year was embedded in his HS time when he repeated his junior year of HS as opposed to being tacked on at the end like the others.

  2. That sounds like the situation is a little different than Fitz's or Shady's. I always had the understanding that a player had to be removed from high school for three years to be NFL Draft-eligible. Here's also a link where Paul Zeise of the PG says the same thing.

    I don't know if he's right for sure on this one, but I haven't seen anywhere that says Lewis will definitely be eligible next year. It sounds like it's far from a done deal that he will be able to go so there's a good chance that Graham would only get one year to start, barring an injury or something.

    And even if he is determined to be eligible, there's no guarantee that Lewis would leave after this year. He would have to have another excellent season and that's a long way off.

    I don't expect Graham to transfer, but I think some players in his situation would. He got some playing time last year as a freshman and I think he would have had even more carries had he not gone through the fumbling issues. I believe he could clearly start for many D-1 teams and expect him to get a little more playing time this year.

  3. Here is the statement in the official NCAA memo on eligibility that pertains to Dion's situation (the key phrase is "or graduation of the class with which he entered high school, whichever is earlier")... and the link.

    "The NFL and NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement states that a player may only apply for eligibility in the NFL Draft three years after his graduation from high school or graduation of the class with which he entered high school, whichever is earlier.

    If a player chooses to enter the draft after only three NFL regular seasons have begun and ended following his high school graduation or graduation of the class with which he entered, he must apply for early eligibility, i.e. "opt in." The early-entry deadline for underclassmen this year is January 15, 2010."

    Link: NCAA Memo

    So - it is just the same as McCoy and others who did an extra year of Prep School after their regular HS... except that Lewis extra year came as a result of repeating his JR year when he transferred from his public school to Blair Academy. It was done as a condition of acceptance at the insistence of the Blair administration.

    Lots of debate whether or not he'll choose to go though and here is what I think.

    There are two telling things that happened prior to Spring Camp that makes me think he'll go early.

    1) Givens (2010 recruit) was wavering about his choice of PITT due to the depth chart. Lewis sat down with him and had a long talk and Givens signed - what I believe happened was that lewis told him that the starting RB spot would open up in 2011.

    2) Jameel Poteat (2011 5* recruit) was quoted as saying this:

    “They (the coaching staff) basically said, since Lewis did the prep school thing he would be in a situation similar to Shady,” Poteat explained. “If he has another year like he did this past season, he could decide to go to the NFL. When I spoke to Shady he also felt that Dion would likely test the waters if given the chance.”

    So all indications point to the fact that he'll be eligible and, IMO, that he'll seriously consider the money after 2010. Personally, I think he's gone.

  4. BTW - after Zeise published that in 11/09 I sent him the above and he understood he missed on that. The key point is that even the Lewis and PITT Staff is telling recruits that Lewis can leave after this season (that info above is culled from published articles) - the rule is pretty clear.

  5. Hadn't remembered that whole 'three years beginning with the gradulating class you enter' thing, but now that you mention it, I think I heard something about that before.

    I still think a lot has to be done, including Lewis staying healthy all season, having another great year, and having the desire to go. I'm hoping he sticks around again, but if he goes for 1,500+ yards, it will probably be hard to keep him if that rule stands.