Hyno The Hammer

While some might be concerned with Pitt's offensive line, when massive tight ends Nate Byham (6-4, 265) and Mike Cruz (6-5, 270) and fullback Henry Hynoski (6-2, 260) in the mix the Panthers should be able to pound the football when they want to move it on the ground.

Just ask Pittsburgh running backs coach David Walker, who is counting on the Panthers' ability to open holes for his young backs like freshmen Dion Lewis and Ray Graham and redshirt frosh Chris Burns. Nate Byham, Mike Cruz and Henry Hynoski are more than ready to pave the way for Pitt's backs.

"I never worked so hard in my life to get in shape and with conditioning,'' Hynoski said. "I did a lot extra in the weight room, and I also watched a lot of extra film to learn as much as I could about our offense. I really wanted to take care of my body, though, because playing fullback is a physical job here.

"When I got here as a freshman, it was a much more physical game than I expected. And I thought I was a physical player. But the speed difference was the big thing. So, I just figured that if I get myself in the best physical shape that I could, so I stepped it up every year that I've been here.

"I worked on improving my strength, speed and durability,'' Hynoski added. "I think I'm quicker, too, even though I'm a lot bigger than I was when I got here. I was more of runner in high school, and I know I won't get the ball as often as I did back then. But I've accepted that. I want to get the ball, and I hope to get some good touches. But it's just as important to throw a good block.''

Hyno, as the bullish Hynoski is called, and while that's an easy moniker to assign due to his last name it's also quite apropos. This guy attacks the ground when he runs and punishes everyone who gets in his path whether he's throwing a block, running or making plays on special teams. But a big block ...

"That's one of the best feelings in the world, in my opinion,'' Hynoski said. "I've heard that hitting a home run is a rush, scoring a touchdown definitely is, but few people realize what it's like to lay a bone-crushing block on somebody. So, that's really self-satisfying, and I can't wait to do it this week.''

Walker knows there are only so many carries available for his guys, and Hynoski certainly is just as critical to his his game plan even if he doesn't pile up the carries this season.

"Henry's really come a long way,'' Walker said. "He's bigger, stronger and real tough, a guy we know we can count on to lead the way. We'll run some one-back stuff, but we'll keep Henry in the game as much as we can. With him and our tight ends, they really add to our offensive line play.''

And you can make bet that the tailbacks know how important Hynoski is to their performances.

"Running behind Henry, he just makes a bigger hole when you add his blocks to our offensive line,'' Lewis said. "He's a tough guy. I'm sure our defense doesn't want to get caught flat-footed when he's pulling out there.''

Hynoski has faith in all the backs he has to block for, and he believes they have a chance -- combined -- to be as reliable as LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling.

"Sure, we'll miss those two from last year,'' Hynoski, said, "but we can't ask more from our young tailbacks. They've worked very hard, and we're very excited to get out there. We can't wait for Youngstown State.''

The Panthers face YSU today at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field, and Hynoski will be busy. He will be the starting fullback and take part with special teams on the kickoff return unit and the punt team as a shield. He's also second team on kickoff returns.

"So, a short kick or squib kick, and look out,'' Hynoski said. "I could get a chance.''

And with Hynoski in the lineup, the Panthers should get a big boost in their running game.

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