Note: At this point I’m only focusing on Seniors. Juniors will be evaluated later in the season, and after the year is over as there will be plenty of tape on the ones who declare for the draft.
I was really interested to see how RB Ray Graham would do against a much better defense and if his knee was getting close to 100%. Early on in the game he looks very tentative and doesn’t seem to trust his knee yet. He cuts back on it, but there is no question that he’s not the same as he was before the injury last season. One thing you do notice about Graham is when he runs he’s always falling forward on the tackle for extra yardage. Many smaller RB’s tend to go backwards upon contact, but Graham keep his legs moving and leans for extra yardage.
As the game went on, Graham looked stronger. He showed big play ability with a 31 catch and run, and also added a 50 yard run later in the game, where he showed off his excellent vision and balance. Had some wiggle in open field which is an encouraging sign.
I’m not saying he’s completely back to the old Ray Graham, but if he can continue to trust his knee, get stronger, and plays with confidence, he will stay high on the rankings among senior RBs.
Another mid-round potential selection for Pitt was OG Chris Jacobson. The thing I noticed the most was his ability to find and deliver a solid block when pulling. He got out of his stance quick on several plays where he had to be on the move, and delivered a solid block. Also showed ability to get to the second level fairly easy and make contact with LBs
Jacobson is an above-average pass protector, but does get too high at times which leaves him vulnerable to speed rushers. Several occasions he got lazy with his footwork and it left him off-kilter and disrupted the timing on passing plays.
TE Hubie Graham had an average day to say the least. Wasn’t targeted too often and finished with only one catch for 8 yards. Graham is an in-line TE who is a very inconsistent run blocker. He looked good for several drives, then would go several plays and get dominated by quicker and stronger defenders. He suffered a shoulder injury late in the game and went to get X-rays.
WR Mike Shanahan led the Panthers in catches and yards, with 5 for 59, but I wish he was targeted more, especially in the redzone so he could take advantage of his size. His first catch was a nice one in the middle of the filed in traffic. Shanahan is a big target who isn’t afraid to get hit and has the size to absorb tackles. Another plus was his willingness and ability to block downfield. Very solid in this aspect and a possible move to TE could be in the cards for Shanahan’s future.
S Jared Holley was hard to get a read on and somewhat of a disappointment. He didn’t play much on the line of scrimmage and was never tested much in the passing game. He did make a nice tackle in the 4th quarter when he came from across the field to save a TD, but aside from that never stood out.
For RT Sean Hooey there were some positives, and negatives. He was quicker than I expected in space and showed proper footwork out of the snap. On the Bearcats rushing TD in the 3rd, Hooey gets a chip on the DT, and then gets to the second level quickly to create a nice running lane with a solid block on the OLB. Hooey possess a nice frame with long arms and will use to his advantage for the most part.
However, he does get caught flat footed at times in pass protection and leaves him extremely vulnerable. His feet look heavy, especially when he gets matched up with a speed rusher off the edge. Was beaten badly when the DE made two quick steps up field then spun back inside. Hooey was left lunging and got off balance quickly.
He was much better overall in the run game, and is a RT prospect only at this point.
The star of the game was DE Walter Stewart. Stewart lined up from several spots including LDE, RDE, OLB, and played some in the middle of the field early in the game. His best attribute is his speed. Stewart forced a fumble when he got past the L.O.S. before the LT could even get out of his stance.
When he lined up as an OLB he dropped in coverage and did an excellent job deciphering if it was a run or a pass. Looked very comfortable in zone coverage on the few times he was asked to drop back. He made two big plays in the second half where he overpowered the FB in the hole and caused a big loss for the RB, and showed his strength by shedding the block from the RT and made a nice sack on Tino Sunseri.
He had a drive in the second quarter where he was constantly the last one of the snap, not sure if it was due to fatigue or what. I also question his ability to stop the run when he plays with his hand in the dirt. He has strength, but there is no doubt that speed is his game. Stewart looks like an ideal 3-4 OLB at the next level.
I didn’t get too much of a read on S Drew Frey. He was very willing to help in run support and made some nice tackles, but was never tested in the passing game. Further evaluation is needed for him down the road.