Player Spotlight – Ray Graham and Bernard Pierce

RB Bernard Pierce
6’0, 218 (approx)

Pierce is a 3-year starter for the Owls and he has been one of the major reasons for the program’s upswing in recent years. He’s rushed for 2,585 yards and 38 TDs in 2 1/2 years. Actually less since injuries cost him a few games. Pierce is a very good college player, but isn’t a great pro prospect. There’s nothing compelling about him.  Pierce is coming off a big game vs Maryland, 32-149.  He ran for 5 TDs and the Owls dominated the Terps.

At his best as a N-S runner.
Runs hard, but lacks top burst or speed.
Doesn’t have the lateral explosion to bounce runs wide against good defenses.
Will break some arm tackles.
Doesn’t go down on first contact.
Has pretty good vision.
Not overly shifty, but can make guys miss.
Occasionally will use a spin move in traffic.
More of a move-the-chains guy than a big play runner.
Reads blocks well, but lacks the cutting ability to get to holes on some plays.
Very productive. Has 8 career games with more than 25 carries.
Limited blocker / receiver.

Pierce is probably a mid-round player if he comes out. Limited athlete. Doesn’t impact the passing game. Could be a good role player in the NFL.

RB Ray Graham
5’9, 195

Graham is in his first year as “the guy”. Dion Lewis was the star tailback at Pitt for the past two seasons. Graham was able to run for 922 yards and 8 TDs last year. He was too good for the coaches to keep him off the field. This year he got a chance to be the star tailback and has lived up to the hype. Ray had a monster game vs USF on Thursday night. He was 26-226-2 as a runner and caught 4 passes for 42 yards. He was the Pitt offense and they won 44-17. Great showing.

Shifty, athletic RB.
Very hard to tackle.
Light on his feet. Able to make dynamic moves.
Excellent lateral agility. Can bounce plays outside or shift back to the middle.
Very good burst. Give him a hole up the middle and he gets to the 2nd level in a hurry.
Good vision. Finds holes in the defense and also reads his blocks well.
Patient runner. Lets his blockers get out in front and do their job.
Gifted receiver. Has good hands.
Dangerous player in space. Can beat defenders 1-on-1 and create big plays.
Solid KOR.
While he is a quick, shifty runner, Graham will run between the tackles.

Ray reminds me of former NFL RB Charlie Garner. Some might think of him as a poor man’s Reggie Bush, but Graham understands that not every play is designed to go 50 yards. He will hit the hole and just run hard for 4 or 5 yards when that needs to be done. He does have big play ability. That and his versatility make him a good pro prospect. I could see him going as early as the 2nd round if he’s able to build off Thursday night’s game. Must show that wasn’t a once a year performance.

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