Dave Wannstedt reiterated on Wednesday the need for both Ray Graham and Dion Lewis to step it up in the same game. He's not concerned with getting one to start over the other. He wants both to do their own thing, making it more difficult for opponents to try to figure them out. He also said there will be no rhyme or reason, for how the backs split carries this Saturday at Notre Dame.
"We've tried to go every three series, and then see what happens," Wannstedt said. "We're going to play the hot hand. (Lewis and Graham) are competing in practice. I wish I had depth and talent to compete at every position like we have at tailback. Those two guys are competing, and they're doing it right. We'll see how it unfolds on Saturday. There's no plan for one guy to get ‘X' amount than the other."
He also admitted that both players continue to be supportive of each other, especially in practice.
"They're both very supportive of each other, but they're also very competitive," Wannstedt said. "I think that Ray (Graham) showed what kind of person he is, with how he handled everything with Dion last year having all the success he had week-after-week. There's no more humble player on our team. Their relationship is good, but at the same time they're both going to be anxiously wanting the football come Saturday."
Lewis' biggest concern this week, is not whether or not he will start. He just hopes that he is healthy, and ready to go in South Bend, Saturday. So far, everything is on track. If anything, Lewis is happier getting an extra week off, in order to be 100 percent for Notre Dame.
"I think it was the best thing," Lewis said, referring to sitting out last week against Florida International. "Going into the game last week, I really didn't practice that much. I wasn't able to lift my arm. Gameday, it was a little better, but it was probably best that I sit it out."
Though Lewis had to sit out and watch Graham rush for 277 yards--the second-best individual performance in school history--not only was he supportive of Graham, he also tried to watch and see what things Graham does, that he might be able apply to his own game.
"He's been real aggressive," Lewis said of Graham's style. "I'm going to try and do a little bit of that."
Despite watching what Graham did, Lewis says there's no jealousy, and there's no rivalry between the two.
"I'm really happy for him, he had a great game," Lewis said. "I was there for support, but at the same time I want to get out there and run a little bit too. We won, and that's the most important thing."
When Lewis says he wants to get out and play, he's not talking by himself either. He wants to run the ball with Graham. He feels against any opponent, when both he and Graham are on top of their game--which we have set to see this year in any one game--Pitt will be at its best.
This year, the numbers don't necessarily prove that theory. Lewis carried the ball primarily against Utah, rushing for 75 yards on 25 carries. It was a game far below his standards, but in reality has been his best game of the season. Graham, on the other hand, has rushed for over 100 yards with limited carries from Lewis in two games, and the 277 yards without Lewis completely. Lewis still believes Pitt will need both backs to be successful.
"Of course," Lewis said, when asked if Pitt opponents can still be scattered. "We're two different kind of running backs. We both have a lot of talent. We kind of take a lot of pressure off each other while we're out there. The (opponent) can't just focus on one style. We can help each other a lot."
Graham, even though he took all the carries last week and had a big game, agrees.
"You just go out there and play," Graham said. "Whoever Coach (Wannstedt) wants out there, me or Dion, whoever's name is called, just make it happen. That's all."
Graham also talked about the importance of his and Lewis' friendship.
"We get along great; on and off the field," Graham said. "During practice, we're always helping each other out. We're just doing whatever we can do to make better for us to go out on the field. The only thing that matters, really, is to win. To win the Big East, that's what we have to do."
Basically, what everyone is saying, is that there's no running back controversy. Everyone from Wannstedt, to Lewis, to Graham want both running backs to be used in a game, to make the offense more effective. Obviously, the players want that, but when it comes time to make the final call, that decision goes to the head coach. He seems to want that too.
"When Dion's carrying the ball, you better have your mouthpiece in," Wannstedt said. "When Ray's in there, you better have your shoelaces tied. One is going to do a little bit more of the make-you-miss, while the other is going to be more physical. It's a nice change. The key is being able to keep them fresh. I think that's an advantage."