While Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt has praised junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling throughout…
McCoy Dazzling Pitt's Defense
Make no mistake. McCoy talks the talk, but certainly can walk the walk. The first week at training camp hasn't been a roller-coaster ride for McCoy, he's been sharp from the outset, but he just might take the University of Pittsburgh football fans on one before his career is over. And Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt finally lauded him publicly.
"I've kind of been hesitant to say his name, but after (Monday's) practice I have to say some good things,'' Wannstedt said. "LeSean McCoy made some plays in today's practice that were awfully exciting. He's working extremely hard and learning the offense, and he's playing tough. And those are the things that initially we were waiting to see.''
McCoy agreed that everything is beginning to click for him now.
"I'm starting to learn the offense a lot better now,'' McCoy said. "All the basic stuff, I'm picking up on that. But it just happens so fast in college. It's different, but it's nothing I can't adjust to. I'm working on things off the field to get better on the field, and I'm looking forward to every rep I get. So, I would say the mental aspect, for me, has been the toughest part.
"This game, I always though it would be tough to get physically ready for college ball, but I can handle that. Everybody works hard off the field to get ready physically, but the mental aspect is tough. I've been running the ball forever, and I can do that. But you have to know what's going on at all times and be able to handle anything they throw at you.''
McCoy, who spent this past football season at Milford Academy prep school in New York, has sparkled in practices with the Panthers and was equally as dynamic during interview sessions with the local media. This freshman recruit is no shrinking violet on or off the football field.
"Shady, he's a big talker, but he's always been that way,'' Pitt sophomore cornerback Aaron Berry, a fellow grad from Bishop McDevitt high in Harrisburg, Pa., said, referring to McCoy by his nickname. "He backs it up on the field, though. He's a real good player.''
Berry, who doesn't lack in the confidence department either, and his teammates have seen flashes from McCoy thus far. But they expect to see more in the future. McCoy is completely recovered from the severely dislocated right ankle he suffered in high school nearly two years ago. He was on his way to a record-setting season at McDevitt. Despite missing two-thirds of his senior season, McCoy still ran for 6,640 career yards to rank ninth in Pennsylvania prep football history.
But the 5-foot-11, nearly 210-pound McCoy wasn't interested in revisiting that part of his career.
"I try not to read that stuff,'' McCoy said. "I have no stats, no touchdowns, nothing yet in college. So, there's not much to talk about.''
When asked which running back, pro or college, has a similar style, McCoy was hesitant to make a comparison. However, when pressed, he wasn't shy about it. He went for a former Heisman Trophy winner and top NFL rookie.
"I'm not sure,'' McCoy said. "I try to model my game after Reggie Bush, but probably everyone tries to do that. I'm just trying to do the best that I can do. I've been working hard on my conditioning. I run hard in practice, and I'll run hard in games. Hopefully, that'll be enough to help this team.''
Panthers followers have pined for a back like McCoy the past few seasons, a big, fast tailback to complement 5-7, 175-pound junior LaRod Stephens-Howling, who led Pitt in rushing the past two seasons.
"Coach Wannstedt, he wants a lot of things from me, as far as catching the ball and running between the tackles,'' McCoy said. "I'm just going to do everything that I can. And, hopefully, I'll do it the best that I can. The good thing about Pittsburgh, the offense we run is more like a pro-style offense.
"At McDevitt, where I had most of my success, we ran that type of offense, too. So, I think I can do pretty good in it. At least I hope so. And I feel very comfortable here. There are great coaches here, but the best guy has been LaRod. He's my roommate, and I've learned a lot from him already this year.
"It's just like a family here,'' McCoy added. "Nobody is worried about more than how the team can get better and what they can do to help the team, and that's LaRod. He's a real good guy and a terrific running back. He's been like a big brother to me, and that means a lot when you come here.''
But what about that nickname, Shady?
"My mom gave me the nickname Shady,'' McCoy said. "She said I was a shady baby. I cried, and then I'd be happy. I was smiling. So, I had a shady attitude. And it just stuck with me since I was little, so I got used to it. And since my mom gave it to me, I can't give it back.''
And after the way he's performed so far at Pitt, there's no going back for McCoy, either.
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