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Todd Graham aims to excite, unite Pitt fans

Mike Haywood never smiled in his Pittsburgh introductory press conference while talking heavily about things like discipline and integrity. A little more than two weeks later, his unsmiling mug shot was passed around the Internet when his arrest on domestic abuse charges made a mockery of those supposed values.

Pitt's introductory coach news conference 2.0 was much different. Sure, Todd Graham talked about wanting to mold fine young men and all that. But compared to Haywood's public persona, Graham was high-octane, just the way he promised his offenses would play. And, yes, he smiled.

Graham's Tulsa offenses routinely crossed the 40-point threshold and were among the nation's leaders in yardage. He vowed to bring that excitement to the Panthers, who fielded a more conservative, run-first approach under Dave Wannstedt.

"The No. 1 thing in our system is speed and explosive power," Graham said. "I want the people at Heinz Field to not sit down in their seats."

Graham said it's a misconception that he runs a spread offense. Instead, he described it as a no-huddle attack that likes to be physical and tough. He said he'll have two backs in the backfield about 70 percent of the time and will incorporate tight ends and fullbacks. It won't be that big of a transition from Pitt's pro-style scheme, he said.

"I don't know how to be physical without fullbacks and tight ends," he said. "We are a run, play-action pass football team.

"We'll adapt our scheme to the skills and talents we have. ... When I went to Rice, they ran the wishbone. I put this offense in and we had a little bit of success."

Graham even said he'd like to speak to receiver Jon Baldwin, running back Dion Lewis and fullback Henry Hynoski and tell them about the benefits they could see from playing in this offense. All three announced their intentions to enter the NFL draft on Monday. Hynoski in particular was seen as a guy who bolted because of the forthcoming style change.

The former defensive coordinator said he will run a 3-4 base scheme on that side of the ball with multiple fronts and coverages. Philosophically, he said, the approach is not that different from what former Pitt coordinator Phil Bennett ran.

Pitt fans couldn't help but be excited when Graham talked about wanting to score lots of points and have quarterbacks throw for 4,000 yards like they did at Tulsa. Of course, fans haven't had a lot of reason for optimism during the coaching turmoil, and many had turned on athletic director Steve Pederson. Graham said he wants to unite the Pittsburgh family again.

"It's time to come together," he said. "I'm one of those guys who's about looking forward. Through change you have conflict, you have adversity, emotions run rampant and all that. The bottom line is we've got to move past that. I will work hard to earn their trust."

If his teams score points, win games and generate as much excitement as Graham did in his first news conference, he won't have any trouble getting the fans on his side.