Over the last 10 years, the Pitt football program has done a pretty good job of developing players, particularly at running back and putting them in the NFL. By the looks of the Panthers future depth chart, that Pitt/NFL pipeline could be growing.
As many of you heard, this week Pat Narduzzi received a commitment from Akron (Ohio) running back Todd Sibley, who’s ranked as one of the Top 20 backs in the country.
Running back coach Andre Powell and offensive coordinator Matt Canada have to be happy men these days, because to say that Pitt is loaded with talent at the running back position would be an understatement.
Let’s take a look at the running back depth chart for this upcoming season.
By the grace of God, James Conner has a clean bill of health (cancer and knee injury) and is expecting to be ready to return as Pitt’s top option. Don’t forget that prior to his injury, Conner (6-2, 240), was ACC Player of the Year and named 1st team All-American in 2014 after rushing for 1,765 yards and scoring 26 touchdowns.
Joining Conner in the backfield will be 2015 ACC Rookie of the Year, Qadree Ollison. Despite starting the season as #3 on the depth chart, Narduzzi called upon Ollison (6-2, 230) after Conner’s injury and he responded in a big way. Ollison went on to become the 5th freshman in Pitt history to run for over 1,000 yards (1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns).
The line of talent continues with a couple of former 4-star running backs in sophomore Darrin Hall and incoming freshman George Hill.
Last year, we saw glimpses of greatness from Hall but it’s pretty obvious that he has big-time talent and should only get better. In 10 games, Hall rushed for 257 yards on 64 carries (4.0 average). In the season finale vs. Miami, Hall rushed for 102 yards on 12 carries, including a 35 yard touchdown run.
Narduzzi will have a decision to make regarding incoming freshman Hill. The former 4-star athlete has the skill to play on both sides of the ball (running back/cornerback). Hill, who Rivals rated as one of the top 15 athletes in the country, had scholarship offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, Nebraska, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
If Hill sticks on the offensive side of the ball, receiving a redshirt is certainly an option.
The coaching staff will also have incoming freshman Chawntez Moss and redshirt junior Rachid Ibrahim, who missed last season with an injury, as options. Moss is someone that really made an impression with the Pitt coaches during Spring practice. He’s a physical back who believes he’s talented enough to play in 2016.
Finally, don’t forget that Pitt is recruiting Florida 4-star athlete Bruce Judson very heavily. Like Hill, Judson has the skill level to play on both sides of the ball and could play a similar role to Jordan Whitehead last year.
Like many things concerning Pitt football, the skill at running back is something for Pitt fans to really be excited about this year and for the foreseeable future.