Q&A: Pitt RB Ray Graham

Ray Graham is poised to have a 1,000-yard rushing season for Pitt this year. I had a chance to ask him about his offseason and what he is looking forward to most in 2011.

AA: How have you spent your summer, and what have you worked on to get better?

RG: I’ve worked hard, trying to get in the weight room and work out as hard as I can. I’ve been doing a little bit of extra stuff, like the hang clean and power clean, where you pick the weight up from the floor and curl it. That’s something new -- we didn’t do that with our past strength and conditioning coach.

AA: Yes Shawn Griswold, the new strength and conditioning coach, told me he was impressed with the way you have worked hard to transform your body.

RG: I thought those workouts helped out a lot. It works out the whole body. You get everything stronger, picking up dead weight from the floor. I thought that was a good thing. I feel stronger in my lower body, too. Coach Griswold gets the best out of us. He pushes us to our limit. When I go in there, I like to work hard and do whatever I can. If I can do more I do more. He pushes me to do more, so that’s the main thing we’ve been focusing on. I’ve been trying to keep my shoulders healthy to take on those big blockers, so when it’s time for third-and-1 and third-and-2, I can run hard to get that first down.

AA: So you have focused more on shoulders?

RG: That’s a common injury, so I try to stay after shoulders a lot, doing the small things that you don’t think are that big.

AA: What are you up to now with your weight?

RG: I’m 198, 200 pounds. I think that’s a good weight on me. I feel I got a lot faster and I feel like I’m huskier so I put on a couple pounds. I’ve just been going hard on all drills, not taking days off. When I’m out there, I keep working hard. We preach Big East champs every practice and we preach champions every day so that’s how we practice.

AA: We’ve seen your name on a lot of watch lists already, from Doak Walker to the Maxwell Award. How do you feel when you see that?

RG: It’s very humbling, but it’s exciting also. I just feel I’m blessed just go out there, and thankful for all the opportunities I get. It’s also motivation for me. I still have to go hard every day, work hard to be the best I can.

AA: Where can you be better?

RG: Hitting the holes and taking it down the line going north instead of putting on extra moves. I think I can trust my speed more and take on the runs instead of taking extra cuts. That can help me get the extra 2, 3, 5 yards. I can continue to get better on my blocking and read holes better.

AA: How can Zach Brown help out?

RG: He’s going to help out a lot. We’ve got another veteran with Dion (Lewis) leaving, so he knows the game and he knows he’s got to come in and work. He’s focused, I’m focused. We’re going to come in and do work. We’ve been watching film a lot lately, and he wants to learn. Once camp starts, he’ll know a lot of the stuff.

AA: What is the potential of this offense?

RG: We’re just going to go out there and be the best we can be. I think we have a lot of weapons to be that No. 1 offense in the country. It’s up to us to operate the offense and get the feeling down.