Pitt FBs Should Contribute

For those who believe the Pitt fullback position has gone the way of the dinosaur, gone but not forgotten, you're sorely mistaken, if Panthers Conredge Collins and Henry Hynoski are to be believed.

Conredge Collins, a senior rated by most scouts among the top fullbacks available for the NFL Draft next spring, doesn't have the career statistics to support that claim. And Henry Hynoski, a talented redshirt freshman with promise for the future, has yet to play a game at this level.

But all that is expected to change this season for the Pittsburgh football team.

"We're both athletic guys, and they recruited us for a reason,'' Hynoski said. "We can run the football and catch the football, and if you run behind is we'll clear a big hole. I think we can do it all, but I'm a little biased.''

The Panthers clearly have much more offensive firepower than in some past years with scintillating tailback LeSean McCoy, former All-Big East player Derek Kinder and high school All-American Jonathan Baldwin at wideout and big-play tight ends in Nate Byham and Dorin Dickerson, as well as talented backups.

So the fullbacks, it would appear, are considerably down the list when Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh start to spread the ball around. After McCoy gets his 25-30 touches a game and quarterback Bill Stull opens things up with tosses to Kinder, Baldwin and a bevy of wideouts, even the tight ends appear to be limited. And the fullbacks, forget about it.

"I don't think that's going to be true, but it doesn't matter,'' Hynoski said. "Me and Conredge, we're both the type of players who will do whatever Coach asks us to do. They'll certainly do what's best for the team, and we definitely want what's best for the team. So, I guess we'll have to see how that plays out.''

Both players are used to toting the football. Collins tallied 1,328 yards rushing, 7.5 yards per carry, and 21 touchdowns as a senior at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami. He has 250 total yards and two TDs and 28 catches for 261 yards and three scores in his first three seasons at Pitt.

"I have such high hopes for this season,'' Collins said. "I expect a lot from myself and a lot from this team, so I'm really looking forward to my senior season. And I'm working hard to get ready for it.

"Coming from how it was for me in high school, where I ran the ball maybe 25 times a game, it's been a little tough in college. There have been games where I never ran the ball or had a pass thrown my way, but I believe I was a contributor just the same. And I accepted my role.''

Hynoski feels the same way. At Southern Columbia High School in Eastern Pa., Hynoski did it all. He ran for 7,165 career yards, sixth in state history, and an astonishing 113 touchdowns. As a senior, Hyno had 2,407 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns. And he rarely played a full game due to the lopsided wins.

"We both got a lot more action in high school, but that's all right,'' Hynoski said. "This is a great opportunity for me, and I love playing fullback. It allows me to do everything I like to do -- block, run and catch. That's what I did in high school, and that's what I want to carry over into college at Pitt.

"I'm playing behind Conredge right now, but that's OK because he's a senior and a great fullback. He just does everything right, so I just want to learn everything I can from him and follow in his footsteps. Hopefully, I'll still get to see some time on the field this year and get my feet wet. And, after he's gone, it's a nice opening for me to play in the next three years.''

Hynoski noted that the Panthers have many different formations, and the fullback has a role in several: two backs in a pro set, a single back with a fullback, throwing the ball to a fullback and has a blocking back.

"I believe it'll be in our best benefit at Pitt to use all our offensive weapons, and we have a lot of them,'' Collins said. "A lot of accolades went to Shady last year, and he deserved it. But since defenses probably are going to stack against him this year, I believe we should spread it around a lot.

"And that should open it up more for Shady. But I can't complain about my career at all. I can say that I've experienced a lot of things in college and I guess I'm ranked pretty high as a fullback, but the one thing I haven't done is win. And that's really the only thing I care about. I want this team to win.''

And with two unselfish players like Collins and Hynoski making contributions, there's a good chance that will happen this season.

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