Pittsburgh—Two of college football’s finest talents will be playing at Pitt this fall according to the newly released Lindy’s College Football 2012 Preview.
On the offensive side, Lindy’s named senior running back Ray Graham a second team All-American and the Big East Offensive Player of the Year. In its player ratings, Graham was listed as the country’s No. 4 running back.
“New Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst will try to implement a smash-mouth style of offense,” wrote Lindy’s. “And he has the workhorse back to do it with in Ray Graham.”
On defense, junior Aaron Donald was rated No. 5 among the nation’s defensive tackles. He was also selected first team All-Big East by the magazine. Donald played every position on the Panthers’ defensive front last season.
Last fall, Graham was on a dazzling rushing pace comparable only to the legendary Tony Dorsett in Pitt annals before a knee injury ended his season in late October. Through his first seven games, Graham was second nationally and first in the Big East in rushing yards per game (134.14 avg.). A knee injury early in the eighth game against Connecticut ended his year and he finished with 958 yards and nine TDs on 164 carries (5.8 avg.).
Graham sat out of spring drills while continuing to rehabilitate his knee. He is eyeing a healthy return for August training camp.
Donald was just as potent on the defensive side of the ball. Rotating across the front, he compiled 47 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 11 hurries and a forced fumble. Donald became only the fifth Pitt player since 1991 to compile 10 or more sacks in a season. He ranked seventh nationally in that category with an average of 0.85 per game.
Pitt is picked to finish third in the Big East by Lindy’s. The magazine lauded the new leadership of the Panthers by writing, “The Panthers seem to have found the right fit in Chryst…a no-frills guy who fits perfectly in this blue-collar city and the locals appreciate his pro-style philosophy.”
In addition to Graham and Donald, four other Pitt players were named to Lindy’s All-Big East Team: junior receiver Devin Street (first team), senior safety Jarred Holley (first team), senior center Ryan Turnley (second team) and senior guard Chris Jacobson (second team).
Pitt opens the 2012 season on Sept. 1 against Youngstown State. Season-ticket packages are currently on sale for as low as $99 and can be purchased online (PittsburghPanthers.com), by phone (800/643-PITT) or in person at the Petersen Events Center ticket office. All Pitt and UPMC employees are eligible for a 20% discount.
Coach Chryst joined Pitt this past December following a highly accomplished eight-year tenure at the University of Wisconsin, where he gained acclaim as one of the country's finest offensive teachers and strategists. His Wisconsin offenses produced nine first-team All-Americans and five Big Ten Player of the Year awards. Chryst was a finalist for the prestigious Broyles Award, annually presented to college football's top assistant, each of the past two seasons.