December 2, 2009

Comfort with coaches key in Christian's decision

Pittsburgh Penn Hills head coach Ron Graham was in the dark about four-star cornerback Cullen Christian's decision a week ago to attend Michigan. But he had a feeling his best player would pick the Maize and Blue for some time …

"Cullen wanted to keep it a mystery but all along he had an outstanding relationship with Coach [Rich] Rodriguez and Coach [Tony] Gibson because they were in contact with him all the way back when they were at West Virginia and Cullen was a sophomore," Graham said. "As the years continued, the friendship and relationship as coach and player continued to grow. He just felt extremely comfortable with those guys and wants to play for them."

Recently named a participant for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Jan. 9, Christian helped lead his team to a surprising run in the playoffs. The Indians advanced to the state quarterfinals with a pair of wins after going 3-5 in the regular season.

"We didn't have a great year, but we were a team that was always capable of something better than the results we were producing," Graham said.

One of four Division I recruits on Penn Hills - linebacker Myles Davis is committed to Syracuse and defensive tackle Aaron Donald to Pittsburgh while athlete Brandon Ifill has a host of suitors - Christian started playing his best when it mattered most, though he competed at a high level all year.

"Cullen is an excellent cover cornerback and it definitely put our coaching staff at ease having him out there because we knew offenses simply wouldn't attack his side of the field," Graham said. "He only had a few interceptions this season because very few teams had the confidence in their quarterback and receivers to go after him."

The 6-0, 180-pound four-star prospect tied for the team lead with four picks according to Graham while he finished with nine receptions for 200 yards (22.2 yards per catch) and a score offensively.

"He's a playmaker," said Graham, who has high praise for his defensive ability. "Cullen has very quick feet, great hip action and he's excellent when the ball is in the air. He studies the receiver, reads the quarterback and he reacts so quickly that he's always in a position to make a play.

"He's also a big physical kid that is terrific in run support."

Graham anticipates his star pupil playing quickly, noting one of the draws of committing to become a Wolverine was the allure of early playing time.

"Coach Rodriguez and Coach Gibson never promised him anything but they said there is a huge opportunity to come in and play right away because they don't have much depth at that position right now," Graham said. "He'll have to adjust to the college but with the caliber of coaches there at Michigan, he should contribute quickly."

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