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Ray Graham Talks About His NFL Future

January 18, 2013 in 2013 East-West Shrine Game

Here is my interview with Pitt running back Ray Graham at the 2013 East West Shrine Game:

On the tradition of Pittsburgh Running backs:

Interview with RB Ray Graham.

Fanspeak's Interview with RB Ray Graham.

It's definitely an honor, starting off with the great Tony Dorsett, and all the past running backs. It is just an honor to be able to be mentioned with those types of running backs. It's definitely a humbling experience and it makes me go that much harder.

On any conversations he's had with former Pitt running backs:

I spoke with Dion Lewis. Dion Lewis and I keep a good relationship, we are real cool off the field, we had a good relationship while we were there together playing together back-and-forth. Shady, he comes back some times and we'll talk as well.

What's the best piece of advice given by a former Pitt player:

Just work hard every day. Tony Dorsett told us what he used to do was work his basics, such as simple things like his footwork. Working from the smallest things 'going right', 'going left'. Just working on small steps, and he said that he perfected it and like doing it in his sleep. I took that and ran with that and I just tried to get good feet by doing that. He gave great feedback to us and I took it.

On what lessons he took from the adversity Pitt has dealt with in recent years:

I just think that it only makes you stronger. The things that you we've been through, because we've been through a lot of different coaches and how you bounce back from that is on you. I think we took it and ran with it, and we didn't back down from a challenge. No matter who came in there, we looked at each other as a family. We went in there and were going to be strong no matter who came in there. And I just think that you have to be strong to deal with situations like that, anybody could have just said that "oh I'm leaving" but we stayed together and kept playing and doing what was best for the team.

On what he learned and how he grew coming back from the knee injury:

It was a humbling experience. It was definitely humbling, it lets  you know that you are not invincible. Anything can happen to anybody at any given moment. As always it's a gift of God's glory, you praise his name every time you get a chance to and don't be shy about it. He gave me another chance to play, and I'm very happy everyday. I'm happy and blessed to be out here.

On the best two traits that he will bring to an NFL team:

A will to get better, to learn and get better. Just being a leader, lead by my actions. Continue to try to get better and help my team out any way I can.

On what part of his game on the field that he wants to show teams that he can do:

I want to show that I can catch the ball, and be a scat back out of the backfield. I think that I can catch the ball really well, and I like my chances against linebackers. Also I want to show my blocking, I  think I have improved on my blocking and think I can continue to get better with that. And just making people miss, I think I have a good chance one-on-one with defenders.

On the best piece of advice the coaching staff at the Shrine Game has told him:

When you are doing everything, going hard and going fast. Coach tell us everytime go big or go home, and he always tells us we aren't going home so it's time to go big. They just tell us that there are always eyes on you so what you do is what you put on film. You got to try to put the good things on film and that is what we try to do.

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RB Ray Graham and WR Emory Blake Have Good Day 2 Practices

January 15, 2013 in 2013 East-West Shrine Game

East Team Practice Day 2 from The East-West Shrine Game

Running back Ray Graham, Pittsburgh:

-Graham really showed well today for the East team. He proved that he was fully healthy with a number of very nice runs that showed off his agility and speed. He did a good job finding the hole and making people miss to get extra yards. Graham also caught the ball extremely well out of the backfield, showing he could be a viable 3rd down back at the next level.

Wide Receiver Emory Blake, Auburn:

-Blake showed the best of a very talented receiving group for the East squad. He came up with big catch after big catch, showcasing very good hands. He got in and out of his breaks well and showed some polish as a route runner. It was a very strong all-around practice and one that should help propel him up draft boards.

Wide Receiver Trent Steelman, Army:

-Steelman was an option quarterback at West Point, but came to the Shrine Game as a wide receiver. Despite being new to the position, Steelman had a really nice day catching the football making a number of nice receptions. Even one that he may have been called for a push off on, was a very nice reception along the sideline where he had to make adjustment to the ball. Steelman also got some looks as an option quarterback in practice as well. Steelman also impressed with his work ethic as he even worked on being a long snapper, after the linemen doing the job kept struggling. He won't do that at the next level, but his willingness to do anything and succeed at it will be noticed among scouts.

Tight end D.C. Jefferson, Rutgers:

-Jefferson showcased a really nice frame and good hands as a receiver. He also won some key battles in full scrimmage drills opening up some really nice running lanes. He should definitely draw some interest as a number 2 TE in the late rounds of the draft.

Safety Cooper Taylor, Richmond:

-Taylor is as big as most linebackers here, but ran well enough to think that he can stay at safety. He has a nice back peddle and is fluid enough in his turn. He showed some really good instincts in 7-on-7's and 1-on-2 drills, and was complimented by the coaching staff for being in proper position multiple times. Had full hitting been allowed, it is clear he would have made some impact plays.

Cornerback Brandon McGee, Miami:

-McGee had one of the best all-around practices today, showed really good coverage ability and played the ball extremely well in the air, coming down with a couple interceptions. He rarely got fooled and was probably the toughest defensive back for receivers to face. He also really showed good short area quickness, which could make him very effective in the slot.

Defensive Line Izaan Cross, Georgia Tech:

-Cross started out a little slow in practice, but as the day wore on he improved greatly. During the scrimmage portion at the end of practice he made some really nice plays, getting into the backfield for sure stops.

Defensive Line Joe Vellano, Maryland:

-Vellano was among the quickest linemen (on either side) off the ball, which allowed him to get good leverage on a number of plays. Didn't make many flashy plays, but he played smart filling holes and slowing down the run quite a few times. In one-on-one drills he had a couple of really nice sessions showing good power.

Check back later as I have a full-recap of today's practices!

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East Roster Preview – Collin Klein Leads East

January 14, 2013 in 2013 East-West Shrine Game

I already previewed the Shrine Game's West Roster and players to watch this week at the East-West Shrine Game. Here are the top players on the East Roster to watch:

Collin Klein East Roster Preview - 2013 Shrine Game

Kansas State QB Collin Klein will be leading the 2013 Shrine Game's East Roster

Quarterback Collin Klein, Kansas State:

Klein was in the Heisman race and had Kansas State in the top 5 this year as an option quarterback. He displays good leadership and work ethic to go along with his good size and strong running ability. Serious questions remain about his passing ability, particularly his throwing motion. He can answer some of the questions this week in a pro-style system. Even though he doesn't project as a good passer, he should get a look as a specialty type of player, given that more NFL teams are doing read-option packages with their quarterbacks.

Running Back Ray Graham, Pitt:

Graham was one the nation's leading rushers in 2011 until he blew out his knee. He came back this past season and wasn't as explosive, but displayed good agility and quickness. He can still be an effective weapon out of the backfield but no longer should be considered a featured back option. Expect to him to go off the board in the 4th round.

Wide Receiver Rodney Smith, FSU:

Smith under performed at Florida State this past season, but flashed the ability to be a quality receiver at the next level. With a 6'5 frame and excellent jumping ability, he could be a major red zone weapon. He will probably gain interest in the 5th or 6th round in the NFL Draft.

Wide Receiver Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech:

Davis has an excellent size-speed combo and the agility to play out of the slot as well. Davis has big play ability and can stretch the defense, but there are question marks surrounding his route running and consistency. His upside and his athleticism should have him going off the board in the 4th or 5th round.

Running Back Zach Stacy, Vanderbilt:

Stacy is a short, compact running back with good speed and explosiveness. He's a decisive running back who hits the hole hard, and has a quick cutting ability to change directions. He can also be a weapon used out of the backfield, and a guy you want to get in open space. He should be an interesting 4th or 5th round selection.

Cornerback Rod Sweeting, Georgia Tech:

Sweeting is a fluid 6 foot cornerback with good length and starting potential. He can inconsistent in coverage but flashes good playmaking ability and is a sure tackler.

Defensive Lineman Devin Taylor, South Carolina:

Taylor never became the dominant edge rusher that many expected in college, but still had an overall productive college career. He's got great length and should be a solid base end in a 4-3 system. He's strong against the run and can still get some pressure on the quarterback.

Defensive Lineman Joe Vellano, Maryland:

Vellano is a lunch-pail type of defensive lineman, who occupies blockers and plays the run well. He's not great in any single area, but he plays at high level and always seems to be around the ball. He fits best as a 5-technique in a 3-4 system. He should be a 4th-5th round selection.

Linebacker Gerald Hodges, Penn State:

Hodges projects best as a 4-3 strong side linebacker, but could also project inside in a 3-4 system. He's strong against the run and has been good in pass coverage. He's not a great pass rusher and will be limited if asked to blitz a lot.

Linebacker Lerentee McCray, Florida:

McCray projects well in a 3-4 system as a rush linebacker and has upside to get after the quarterback. He was inconsistent some in college, but had a strong senior year campaign that should make NFL teams take notice. He does have question marks in coverage ability and has not be a strong run stopper in his career.

Safety Josh Evans, Florida:

Evans is a multi-year starter at Florida and has been a good in-the-box type strong safety. He struggles some in deep coverage but has been good against tight ends and running backs. Evans is hurt by a deep safety class, but could be a good value pick for a team late in the draft.

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