McCoy takes high road, supports splitting time at running back
LeSean McCoy, trying to fight off Connecticut's Tyvon Branch in the first quarter Saturday night, doesn't mind sharing Pitt's running-back job with LaRod Stephens-Howling.
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The fact that freshman LeSean McCoy had only 11 rushes in Pitt's 34-14 loss to Connecticut Saturday night caused quite a stir because McCoy had been so much more productive than his counterpart, LaRod Stephens-Howling, in the Panthers' first three games.
But one person who does not see a problem with the idea of McCoy and Stephens-Howling splitting carries is McCoy. He said Stephens-Howling is just as capable of carrying the Panthers' offensive load as he is. McCoy was named the starting tailback for the 2-2 Panthers' game Saturday at Virginia (3-1), but he said he and Stephens-Howling should be viewed as equals.
"LaRod and I will switch in and out and probably end up with the same amount of carries, so it really doesn't make a difference who is starting," Stephens-Howling said.
- Who: Pitt (2-2) vs. Virginia (3-1), 7 p.m.
- Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.
- TV/Radio: ESPNU, WWSW-FM (94.5) and WBGG-AM (970).
"At the end of the day, we've had back-to-back losses, and so all of that stuff doesn't matter. The biggest thing is to get this team back to winning, so I don't even look at stuff like "I should get the ball more" or anything like that.
"The type of backs we have, any of us can go in there and run the ball and me and LaRod are equal as far as talent-wise, so you put me in there or you put him in there it really doesn't matter. As long as we have some good blocking and good calls we'll get it done."
Obviously that is not the answer many observers were looking for from McCoy, but it is the standard answer he has given to any questions relating to his needs as opposed to the team's needs. He simply wants to win games.
"I think having LaRod around takes the pressure off both of us, especially since we can run all of the same plays pretty much the same way," McCoy said.
"And he's been doing it for three years now, so really I am just here to help him out and I feel like we can do this thing together. And we'd be more dangerous [in the same backfield] because, if you look around the country, there are a lot of good backs that form a one-two punch and as far as defenses are concerned, you can't really prepare for both of us."
The fact that McCoy has been the ultimate team player has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by coach Dave Wannstedt.
It is, however, a stark contrast to the reputation McCoy had as being boastful during his senior season at Bishop McDevitt High School, where he was one of the top-ranked running backs in the country.
But Wannstedt said he is not surprised by how much of a team player McCoy has been because that's what he had heard about him from the people who knew him best -- his former coaches. He said McCoy, who spent last season at Milford Academy because he was injured during his senior season, is more mature than most freshmen. That has served him well.
And that maturity also is the reason he is in line for a lot more work Saturday against the Cavaliers.
"Attitude was difficult [last year] -- I mean, you go from being one of the top running backs in the country to the point where you are at a prep school coming off a broken leg," Wannstedt said.
"You have to be a special guy to have a great attitude going through that. I never sensed or heard from any of his coaches about his attitude. He works hard with as good of an attitude as anyone on our team.
"He's been great and he doesn't talk and act like a freshman, and that's what gives him a chance to play. He is more mature, he's been more exposed to a few more things, and that all helps. We're trying to get him the ball, but it is tough when we fall behind."
McCoy knows he -- and Stephens-Howling, for that matter -- will be under a lot of pressure to perform Saturday because the Panthers are going to have freshman quarterback Pat Bostick making his first career start.
"Coaches are going to take it easy on [Bostick], and they are going to work with him because Virginia has a pretty good defense," McCoy said.
First Published September 27, 2007 12:00 am