Stephens-Howling-McCoy Could Share Backfield

Let's make one thing perfectly clear from the outset, unless they go to a field somewhere to set up a race, one won't be sure if junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling or freshman LeSean McCoy is faster. Stephens-Howling said maybe they'll race in the spring.

There is one certainty, however, and it's that LaRod Stephens-Howling and LeSean McCoy make up the quickest backfield Pittsburgh fielded in years. Both can take a play the distance every time they touch it. The number of touches each will get, however, remains a mystery as well.

"We haven't gotten as far as the game plan,'' Stephens-Howling said. "(But) I really don't see any difference between us. We both can go back there and make plays. When you put the ball in our hands or when it's out of our hands, I think we'll both be able to come in and be positive people in this offense.

"(McCoy) is a bigger running back than me, so he's going to be able to get a lot more banging, while I'm going to be trying to run around people. But that's what I do. My body can't handle the pounding as much as him, but we're both going to be out there pounding the other team either way.''

Stephens-Howling believed the Panthers could be explosive whether they run the football or junior Bill Stull throws it thanks to all the playmakers on offense. Stull readily agreed.

"We're the underdogs, I guess, but that's all right with us,'' Stull said. "We know we're talented, and I think we have a lot of depth on offense. I think we'll come out and surprise some people this season, but you'll just have to come out to the game to see just how deep and explosive we are.''

McCoy gave credit to Stephens-Howling for being his mentor since he arrived at Pitt, and the incumbent starter was glad to help the underclassman.

"I think we can be great,'' Stephens-Howling said. "I just tried to teach him everything that I knew. It's the same thing that people did for me when I was a freshman. And if he can learn the concepts he can be a great running back here also. (But) I'm not worried about losing my job to him.

"If I'm worried about keeping my job, I'm not going to do my job. So, I'm not worried about that. I'm more concerned about being able to win and having a successful backfield.''

That could be with both in the game at the same time. The Panthers have used Stephens-Howling in a variety of ways, taking direct snaps, in motion and split out, as well as in a pro set, the I-formation and single back. That could be compared to what the New Orleans Saints do with Reggie Bush, but Stephens-Howling hasn't asked for that role just yet.

"I'm not the type of guy to go tell the coach what I'm thinking, but if he ever wanted to do that with me I would do it,'' he said. "I feel like wherever they want to put me I can line up and do whatever they need me to do. I can be a receiver, also, so I'll do it all if they want. (But) there's a possibility that you could see me and Shady in the backfield together. Whatever helps us win, that's what I want to do for the team.''

Along with several long touchdown runs, Stephens-Howling has taken a kickoff back for a score. But he won't be doing that this season if wideout Tamarcus Porter and cornerback Lowell Robinson are successful.

"I like running back kicks, but the most satisfying thing for me is when we win the game,'' Stephens-Howling said.

And that's what makes him a special player on and off the field for Pitt.

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