Senior linebacker Max Gruder was named to the Butkus Award watch list, while junior running back Ray Graham was recognized on the Doak Walker Award list.
Gruder (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Country Day) is one of 51 players considered a preseason candidate for the Butkus Award, annually presented to the nation’s top linebacker by the Butkus Foundation. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Gruder has compiled 175 tackles over the past two seasons in a starting role. A versatile performer, Gruder has played all three linebacker spots but will focus on the weakside position in 2011.
Graham (Elizabeth, N.J./Elizabeth) is one of 51 preseason candidates for the Doak Walker Award, which is presented to the country’s outstanding running back by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum. Last season, Graham rushed for 922 yards and eight touchdowns on just 148 carries (6.2 avg.). He is also a dangerous kick returner and ranked among the Big East’s all-purpose yardage leaders (136.3 yards/game).
The 2011 season marks the highly anticipated debut of the Todd Graham coaching era at Pitt. Graham comes to Pittsburgh after an exceptional tenure at Tulsa, where in four years he had three 10-win campaigns and three bowl victories.
He compiled a 36-17 overall record with the Golden Hurricane, including a 10-3 mark last year that was highlighted by a 28-27 victory at Notre Dame and 62-35 win over nationally ranked Hawai’i in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl. Tulsa finished No. 24 in the final Associated Press poll.