Ray Graham Still Out ... Now What?

Ray Graham could sit out Pitt's opener (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Nothing's been confirmed as of the time I'm writing this, but Brett McMurphy's pretty good. If he says Ray Graham isn't likely to play, I'll believe him.

And with that, any idea of redshirting Rushel Shell may have officially gone out the window. Sure, Pitt could play Malcolm Crockett and Corey Davis to get by, but without any realistic idea of when Graham may be back, if he's the second best back left, you've probably got to play him.

And so begins the Isaac Bennett era.

Having to play Bennett isn't the worst thing in the world. Look, he had a huge spring followed up by a strong fall training camp. By all indications, he should be able to carry Pitt in the first game. But it's not Youngstown State most of us are worried about - it's Cincinnati in the second contest.

That unusually early Big East clash is looking more and more like a scary one for Pitt. Sure, it's even worse for Cincinnati, who will be playing its season opener, but at least they get the game at home. And if you're counting on Graham for that game, you may want to think again. There's no guarantee he can't play - and in fact, I'd bet he's probably chomping at the bit to get in there for that one. But since it's only five days later, if he's not ready for YSU, there's a good chance he won't be ready less than a week later.

Maybe all of this is precautionary. Maybe Pitt is relying on the fact that they should have little trouble with Youngstown State even without Graham. But if he's truly not ready, that's not a good thing for Pitt.

It's not that they have to start Bennett, who should be adequate. It's that with Graham out, they're now a single injury away from having maybe the strongest position on the team become one of its weakest. Shell is expected to be a star, but he had his share of ups and downs in camp.

Pitt is simply in a much better position to do damage this season with Graham in the backfield.

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