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December 8, 2011Pitt won six regular-season games in 2011, and on Thursday the Big East announced that the Panthers have six all-conference honorees.
Junior running back Ray Graham and redshirt junior safety Jarred Holley were both named to the All-Big East first team; redshirt senior defensive tackle Chas Alecxih, redshirt senior linebacker Max Gruder, senior cornerback Antwuan Reed, and sophomore defensive tackle Aaron Donald were named to the all-conference second team.
Despite missing the final four games and almost all of a fifth game, Graham was arguably the best offensive performer in the Big East. He rushed for 958 yards and nine touchdowns and caught 30 passes for 200 yards; his rushing total is fourth-most in the conference, and his average of 119.8 rushing yards per game is nearly 24 yards per game more than Connecticut's Lyle McCombs, who led the Big East with 95.9 rushing yards per game.
Graham also returned two kickoffs for 35 yards, giving him a total of 1,193 all-purpose yards. That total yardage ranks eighth in the Big East, and his average of 149.1 all-purpose yards per game would rank second in the conference, but the Big East does not rank players who participated in less than 75% of the games.
In his second year as a starting free safety, Holley was Pitt's second-leading tackler, making 64 total tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and three pass breakups. More importantly, Holley emerged as a leader for the defense and a stabilizing force in the defensive backfield.
By the end of the season, Donald was one of the most disruptive players on the field. He finished fourth in the Big East with 15 tackles for loss and second in the conference with 10 sacks. And fellow defensive lineman Alecxih had similar disruptive success, recording 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5. sacks, along with 54 total tackles, good for fourth on the team.
Gruder made the all-conference second team after leading Pitt in tackles this season with 107 total stops, 7.5 tackles for loss, and .5 sacks. And Reed made the second team as a result of his best season as a Panther; the Johnstown native led Pitt with seven pass breakups and recorded two fumble recoveries.
Pitt placed six total players on the All-Big East teams, matching the team's regular-season win total. Last year, Pitt had seven all-conference players and won seven regular-season games. The Panthers will face SMU in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham on January 7.