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McCoy, like Ringer, presents a challenge to ND defense

Chris Hine | Friday, October 31, 2008

Notre Dame has already faced one big-name running back this season – Michigan State’s Javon Ringer – and will face another one this Saturday against Pittsburgh in sophomore LeSean McCoy.

Ringer torched the Irish for 201 yards on 39 carries in Michigan State’s 23-7 win over the Irish on Sept. 20.

In seven games, McCoy has rushed for 861 yards on 161 carries (5.2 yards per carry) good enough to rank 11th in total rushing. He has 14 touchdowns – four in Pittsburgh’s 54-34 loss last week against Rutgers – which has propelled him to the No. 1 spot nationally in scoring average. McCoy has also caught 17 passes this season for 206 yards.

“Their whole offense centers around McCoy,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said Tuesday. “I know he’s a sophomore, but he’s definitely one of the best backs in the country. He can run and catch. This guy is a complete back. And he’s very, very good.”

Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said McCoy has become better as the season has gone on, and McCoy’s 154 yard-performance against Rutgers showed that.

“I thought that our offensive coaches had a very good plan on how to attack Rutgers and all their movements and pressures. That’s a credit to the blockers but also a credit to LeSean,” Wannstedt said. “He knew where the crease would be and he just wasn’t out there getting the ball and running. He’s maturing and starting to see the big picture. Yes, you have to run reckless but at the same time you have to do the little things and I think that’s what everyone’s seeing.”

Weis said he was impressed with McCoy’s versatility as a runner.

“I haven’t seen everybody in the country. But I know there’s very few running backs that run inside and out equally as impressively,” Weis said. “There’s a lot of guys that are like cut back, bounce out runners, or there’s guys that pound it like Ringer, for example. Ringer is not a guy who really spends a lot of his time on the edge … That is not the same running back we have here, because this guy can run inside and run outside, and they give him an opportunity to do both.”

But this week, Notre Dame may be able to load the box against McCoy and contain him. As of press time Wednesday night, the status of Pittsburgh starting quarterback Bill Stull was uncertain. Stull, who has thrown for 1,562 yards and four touchdowns this season, suffered a concussion against Rutgers. Pat Bostick would start in place of Stull if Stull can’t go.

Even if Stull does play, Notre Dame may have success at the line of scrimmage due to the injury of center Robb Houser. Houser sustained a season-ending ankle injury against Rutgers. Wannstedt wasn’t sure how he was going to fill that hole, but regardless, Notre Dame knows it will see a heavy dose of McCoy.

“We’re going to have to show that we can stop them or else it’s going to be a long day for the Irish,” Weis said.