Hynoski Becomes More Versatile For Pitt

Henry Hynoski doesn't rank among the national leaders in rushing or receiving, and Pitt's redshirt sophomore fullback isn't even listed among the best in those categories in the Big East Conference.

However, when evaluating contributions to the Pittsburgh offense, few Panthers provide as much as Henry Hynoski in every way possible. That includes blocking, pass-catching and running with the football.

"Henry's done a great job this season, for a first-year starter,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He's done an excellent job with his blocking all year, and he's becoming more versatile in the offense every week. He can catch the ball and run with it, and that gives us more options on offense.''

Pitt first-year offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti readily agreed.

"Henry's contributing a lot to our offense,'' Cignetti said. "He's on the field a lot, and we're mixing him into our game plan a little more every week.''

Hynoski has 17 carries for 87 yards rushing (a 5.1-yard average) and one touchdown with a long run for 14 yards. This is the third-most production behind starting tailback Dion Lewis and backup Raymond Graham, Pitt's two freshman sensations. Hynoski even has one kickoff return for 11 yards.

As a pass-catcher, Hynoski has worked hard to gain the trust of his coaches and teammates. He has 10 catches for 69 yards with a long play for 21 yards. He is the fifth-leading receiver for Pitt behind wideout Jonathan Baldwin, tight end Dorin Dickerson, wideout Oderick Turner and Lewis.

"I'm just happy to get my hands on the ball as much as I have this season,'' Hynoski said. "I feel like I've done a good job blocking, and I'm glad to be able to contribute to our wins. I like to get the ball as much as anybody, but you know me. I'm just as happy, maybe more, to throw a crushing block.

"Coach Cignetti has given me a lot of touches, whether that's running the ball or catching it, and you know that I'll never complain when it's my job to throw a big block. I love to do that. So, we work on all that every week, and it's paid off so far. My blocking has improved a lot this season.''

At 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds, some might believe that Hynoski is perfect as a fullback. But at Southern Columbia High School in Eastern Pennsylvania, Hynoski tallied 7,165 rushing yards and 113 touchdowns for a perennial PIAA Class A championship team that went 58-3 during his four seasons there.

Those who have watched the bruising fullback run have likened his style to someone who's angry at the ground, but Hynoski noted that the only difference between now and his scholastic days is that he's bigger and stronger.

"Actually, I think it's exactly the same as it was in high school, but I probably run harder,'' Hynoski said. "I used to go for the home run threat, but that's not really my style now. I'm the kind of back who can grind it out and get maybe six, seven or eight yards a carry by just putting my head down and plowing.

"As far as my blocking goes, it's all about being physical. Just line up your guy and smack him in the mouth. That's the key, but you have to make sure you follow your assignment. You can't just go around hitting anybody. When I stay in for pass-protection, I really have to be aware of any blitzers.

"Catching passes, it's great to be isolated on a DB,'' Hynoski added. "I probably outweigh some by 50 pounds or so. That could be a lot of fun. Truthfully, though, I'll do whatever I can to help the team. Running, catching passes and blocking. To me, a crushing block is as good as scoring a touchdown.''

But how did you feel after your only collegiate touchdown, plowing in from three yards out at Louisville?

"That was great, a great feeling,'' Hynoski said. "I know I won't get too many more opportunities like that with the way Dion and Ray are running, but I'd like to think that I'm a good option in short-yardage and around the goal line.''

And as Hynoski has proven this season, he's as versatile and valuable as any Pitt player on offense this season.

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