We got a chance to talk to tight end Hubie Graham for the first time in a while yesterday. Graham has only played in three games this season, sitting out with a couple of different injuries. First, he suffered a clavicle injury against Cincinnati that cost him the Virginia Tech and Gardner-Webb games. Then, a high ankle sprain against Syracuse caused him to miss the Louisville and Buffalo games as well. Graham returned to practice this week, and was optimistic that he would be ready to go against Temple Saturday.
"I definitely think I’m ready to play. I gained a lot of confidence out there today," Graham said. "Did a lot better than we expected, and got back a lot faster than we expected, so that’s all positive stuff. I’m hungry to get back out there and play some ball."
He said his shoulder is 100 percent healed, and now it's just a matter of the ankle getting back to normal. I touched in my notebook Tuesday about the lack of production from Pitt's tight ends in the passing game. If Graham does come back Saturday, that should help.
"I don’t think it’s anything that you’re going out of your way to do or feel like guys are limited ability-wise," offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said of the tight ends' involvement in the pasing game (or lack thereof).
"I just think you’re trying to do what you’re good at right now. Part of it is pass protection, been doing a decent job kind of helping in that respect."
Here are a couple of other notes from our meeting with Rudolph yesterday...
- Rudolph said the weather did play into Pitt's playcalling against Buffalo, mostly with regard to how much and when the coaching staff felt they could effectively pass the ball.
"There were certain quarters where you had the ball and you had the wind with the ball," Rudolph said. "You wanted to be smart when it was a little bit harder to throw it down the field. We had confidence in Tino, but also didn’t want to put anyone in a bad spot in that situation."
- Paul Chryst mentioned Monday that wide receiver Mike Shanahan has been doing some spot tight end work with the position thinned by injury. Rudolph expanded on that a bit. Mostly, Shanahan is motioning inside and serving as an extra run blocker. With his size, that's a role he can fill effectively.
"Whether you start split or start tight, it really doesn’t matter," Rudolph said. "I thought he did a nice job with it. I thought that’s something that he brings to the table and can add in to some of the blocking schemes. You ask him, he champions whatever role you give him and does a nice job with it."
- I noted it in my game breakdown, and Rudolph also touched on the fact that Ray Graham did a better job running north and south Saturday, rather than dancing around in the backfield. Graham had 74 yards on 20 carries Saturday, and generally looked more decisive in his cuts.
"It’s something we really stress," Rudolph said. "It’s something that I think he did do better. He hit a couple of things vertical, and I think he was conscious of it and made an effort to do that."
In general, though, much like Chryst, Rudolph wasn't overjoyed with the performance of the running game at Buffalo.
"It’s hard to run consistently and be good at it and kind of hang your hat on that," he said. "So we’ve got to be able to mix it up, but when we do run the ball we have to make the most out of those opportunities. It’s just inconsistent right now, and inconsistency there gets you into second-and-longs, gets you behind the sticks and I think that’s an area we want to show some improvement on Saturday."
- I wrote today about kicker Kevin Harper and his nice game Saturday after some early struggles.