Collier is Glad to be Back

Pitt running back Kevin Collier walked off the practice field Tuesday afternoon sporting a smile you wouldn't expect to see on a player sitting third on the depth chart. But Collier had his reasons for smiling – he's finally playing again.

Kevin Collier, who redshirted last year after breaking his right wrist in training camp, is finally healthy and ready to make an impact for the Pittsburgh Panthers in the upcoming season.

Collier hangs behind LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling on the Panthers' depth chart at running back. But while he may not be in the backfield full-time, he can present both the power and the speed that makes a back successful. And when he does get on the field, Collier is confident he can find success.

"I truly believe we can get it done, no matter who's in the backfield," Collier said.

Highly touted out of Churchville, N.Y., Collier was recruited by big-name schools like South Carolina, Wisconsin, Boston College and Michigan State after having a terrific high school career. He came to Pitt hoping to make his presence felt immediately, in whatever way he could.

He had a solid debut at Pitt, playing in eight games and rushing for 115 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman. He also had three receptions for 18 yards.

Collier said sitting out all of last year, especially after lettering his freshman year, was tough to do. He watched from the sidelines, wishing he could be out on the field.

"I hated it," he said. "We're athletes, we just want to play."

Collier said he worked hard on recovery and it hasn't been until now that he's fully healthy and feeling comfortable. He's recently gained back all the strength in his wrist and is just now trying to get used to being on the field again. The best way to get there, he said, is by getting more and more reps at practice.

"It took a good six or seven months [to recover]," Collier said. "I'm fully recovered now, but just to get reps is different. It's just hard because I really just got back."

With McCoy and Stephens-Howling taking most of the carries, and exciting freshman backs Chris Burns and Cameron Saddler on their way, the Pitt backfield should be quite deep.

McCoy is an All-American candidate, while Stephens-Howling has proven himself as a very reliable back over the past few years. If Collier stays healthy and finds a role in the offense, the backfield could be a constant threat. This will allow Dave Wannstedt to continue with his run-first game plan, eventually opening up the passing game which struggled badly last season.

Collier said just being in practice and working with the rest of the backs is helping him improve each day. He said watching McCoy and Stephens-Howling is "really exciting," and they're happy to see him back on the field again.

Collier added that he has bigger worries than the amount of playing time he'll see when the season begins. The most important thing to him is getting more wins.

"We're all going to get carries," he said. "Being third on the depth chart is really a bonus. Most of all, we all want to win this year. Last year we lost four games by seven points or less. We want to fix the mistakes and limit the turnovers. We don't want to go 5-7 like we did last year. A Big East Championship is the goal."

Collier said that sitting on the sidelines last year with starters Jason Pinkston, Derek Kinder, Gus Mustakas and Bill Stull really helped him want to come back and be better. He and Stull are completely healthy now, while Kinder, Mustakas and Pinkston are doing light workouts and should be close to 100 percent by summer camp.

That's why after going through a tough time last year, Collier is just happy to be back on the field and taking handoffs – no matter how many he's getting.

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