Happy Thanksgiving to all. Hope everyone has a wonderful day with family, food and football. It might not be the Backyard Brawl, but Pitt has a pretty big game in front of it this weekend. We can get to the matchups and Xs and Os of Pitt/Rutgers tomorrow, though. This season has had some almost-nauseating highs and lows, but, in the spirit of the holiday, I thought we could take a look at just a few things Pitt fans can be thankful for this season.
- Ray Graham's health: Graham always said he would be return to his old form after last year's ACL injury, but those types of injuries are always a little bit dicey when it comes to running backs. Some guys just never get that old burst back. It's safe to say, though, that Graham is 100 percent back to "old Ray Graham" and maybe even a little bit better. Whether it was his ankle-breaking juke on a Temple defender, or the explosive 55-yard run to open the game against Notre Dame, Graham has given Pitt fans more than his fair share of highlights this season.
- A young defense that should get better: Only one season-long starter on Pitt's defense is set to graduate this year, safety Jarred Holley. Even there, Pitt has a lot of young safety talent to take that spot. The rest of the defense should be back next year (there might be a chance Aaron Donald and K'Waun Williams test NFL waters). With another year in Dave Huxtable's system, should get even better. If everyone stays healthy, something that didn't happen this season, the defense could be something special. Lafayette Pitts and Todd Thomas, especially, are two super-athletic young defenders who can make things happen.
- A coach who will be here next season: It's a fairly simple thing, but one that Pitt fans haven't been able to take for granted the last few years. Paul Chryst is in this for the long-haul, and has talked over the last couple of weeks about the "culture change" he hopes to instill at Pitt over the course of his tenure. Everyone talks a lot about instilling a sense of stability within the program. By its nature, stability is something that takes more than one season to implement, but Chryst is well on his way there. True stability will only occur after he has been at Pitt for a few seasons.
- The future in recruiting: Chryst earned his biggest recruiting win of his tenure this past weekend with the commitment of Belle Vernon offensive lineman Dorian Johnson. Fellow WPIAL superstars Robert Foster and Tyler Boyd are also very much in play, which would turn a pretty good first recruiting class into a pretty great one. Three current Pitt commitments made this year's Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 team -- Johnson, South Fayette WR Zach Challingsworth and Clairton WR-DB Titus Howard. Keeping elite WPIAL talent home at Pitt has been a stated goal of Chryst's since he took the job, so this is obviously good news.
What say you, Pitt fans. What else are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?