Pitt Football: Where Ray Graham Ranks Among Pitt's All-Time Great Running Backs

Matt Shetler@@buccos12Correspondent IApril 23, 2011

Pitt Football: Where Ray Graham Ranks Among Pitt's All-Time Great Running Backs

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    PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 23:  Ray Graham #1 of the Pittsburgh Panthers evades a tackle by Ramon Buchanan #45 of the Miami Hurricanes on September 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    One thing Pitt football fans have been accustomed to watching of late is quality running backs.

    With the early departure of junior Dion Lewis to the NFL, Ray Graham has become the unquestioned feature back in new Pitt head coach Todd Graham's explosive, high octane offense.

    Graham patiently waited his time behind Lewis and showed what he is capable of producing when his number was called.

    He is a solid couple of campaigns away from moving up the impressive list of Pitt backs in the future, but for today, let's take a look at where Graham currently ranks among the top 10 Pitt running backs over the last 40 seasons.

10. Brandon Miree

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 27:  Brandon Miree #25 of the Pittsburgh Panthers tries to get away from Jermaine Hardy #36 of the Virginia Cavaliers during the Continental Tire Bowl December 27, 2003 at Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by
    Craig Jones/Getty Images

    Years: 2002-03

    Stats: 1,516 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns (only rushing stats are included)

    Miree came around when the Pitt program was struggling. After transferring from Alabama, Miree put together a solid junior season, nearly eclipsing the 1,000 yard barrier.

    He fell off his senior year, but did enough to get drafted. The Denver Broncos chose him in the seventh round of the 2004 NFL draft.

9. Ray Graham

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 02:  Ray Graham #34 of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs for a touchdown during the Big East Conference game against the Louisville Cardinals  at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 2, 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky.  Pittsburgh won
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Years: 2009-present

    Stats: 1,235 yards; 12 touchdowns

    Graham can be a game breaker and will receive plenty of touches in the next two seasons. To date, he has shown the ability to hit the hole with speed and is shifty enough in the open field to go the distance at any time.

    He realistically should be able to match or exceed his career statistics this season alone.

8. LaRod Stephens-Howling

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    LOUISVILLE - OCTOBER 27:  LaRod Stephens-Howling #34 of the Pittsburgh Panthers is tackled during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Papa John?s Cardinal Stadium on October 27, 2007 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Years: 2005-08

    Stats: 1,959 yards; 15 touchdowns

    Howling didn't do much as a Panther, but considering the offensive line he ran behind, his numbers likely could have been better.

    His best season came in 2006 where he rushed for 893 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, scoring nine touchdowns.

    He would eventually be replaced as the starter by LeSean McCoy, but Howling did enough overall to earn a pretty solid living in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals.

7. Kevan Barlow

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    19 Sep 1998:  Running back Kevan Barlow #43 of the Pittsburgh Panthers in action during a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Pitt Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions defeated the Panthers 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stew
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Year: 1997-2000

    Stats: 2,324 yards; 20 touchdowns

    Barlow had only one season as Pitt's primary guy but ground out a good senior season in which he eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark and got in the end zone eight times.

    He had some talent and, had he been as productive his first three seasons, would be much higher on the list.

    Barlow was drafted in the third round of the 2001 NFL draft and had a successful seven-year NFL career.

6. Curvin Richards

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    15 Sep 1990: Running back Curvin Richards of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs down the field during a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma won the game 52-10.
    Joe Patronite/Getty Images

    Years: 1989-90

    Stats: 1,964 yards; 9 touchdowns

    Richards was a talented college running back and nearly hit the 1,300 yard mark in 1989 but rushed for only half that total the following season.

    He was drafted in the fourth round of the 1991 draft by the Dallas Cowboys where he spent three seasons.

    Richards had a costly fumble on the goal line in 1993 and was cut the following day by then Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson.

    Richards' name was never heard on a football field again.

5. Craig Heyward

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    SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 10:  Full back Craig Heyward #34 of the Atlanta Falcons looks on during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on September 10, 1995 in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won 41-10.  (Photo by George Rose/G
    George Rose/Getty Images

    Years: 1984-87

    Stats: 2,950 yards; 23 touchdowns

    One of my favorite Panthers backs ever, good old Iron Head put together a solid career, both as a Panther and in the NFL, where he was a first round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 1988.

    While at Pitt, Heyward had a couple big season, including the 1987 season which would be his last at Pitt. That year, Heyward rushed for 1,655 yards.

    He put together an 11-year NFL career, including making the Pro Bowl in 1995.

4. Dion Lewis

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    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04:  Dion Lewis #28 of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball during the Big East Conference game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Pittsburgh won 28-10.  (Photo by A
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Years: 2009-10

    Stats: 2,860 yards; 30 touchdowns

    Lewis put together a freshman season for the record books in 2009, rushing for 1,799 yards.

    That season prompted many to list Lewis as a contender for the Heisman Trophy entering last season.

    While the 2010 campaign was disappointing for the entire Pitt team, it was especially disappointing for Lewis, who never really got going.

    After a pair of coaching changes in the offseason, Lewis declared for the NFL draft rather than stick around to see how he would fit into Todd Graham's new offense.

3. LeSean McCoy

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    TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 2: Tailback LeSean McCoy #25 of the Pittsburgh Panthers rushes upfield against the University of South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium on October 2, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Years: 2007-08

    Stats: 2,816 yards; 35 touchdowns

    McCoy had a tremendous two year run at Pitt, eclipsing the 1,325 yard mark in each season. He was a true workhorse who had a knack for getting into the end zone, scoring 21 times on the ground during his final season as a Panther in 2008.

    He was a second round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 and is already off to a good start in his NFL career.

2. Curtis Martin

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Years: 1991-94

    Stats: 2,643 yards; 15 touchdowns

    Martin is a rare exception of a guy who had much more success at the NFL level than he did in college. He still had a productive NCAA career and ranks high on this list.

    He had a great junior season, rushing for over 1,000 yards in 10 games played; however with high expectations entering his senior season, injuries limited Martin to only two games played.

    His Pitt career ended on a sour note, but Martin forged a great NFL career in which he rushed for over 14,000 yards and 90 touchdowns, en route to a future spot in the NFL Hall of Fame.

1. Tony Dorsett

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    Years: 1973-76

    Stats: 6,082 yards; 39 touchdowns

    Dorsett is still and likely always will be the standard setter when discussing Pitt running backs. He capped off his Pitt career in 1976 with a 1,948 yard season in which he won the Heisman Trophy.

    Dorsett set an NCAA rushing record that stood for over 20 years while at Pitt.

    There is no need to discuss his illustrious NFL career as he became one of the leagues greatest rushers of all time.