Come August when Pitt starts fall camp, running backs coach Andre Powell will have a deep and very talented depth chart. Right now that isn’t the case due to injury and freshman not yet officially enrolled into college.
Following practice this morning, the media had a chance to talk with Powell about a variety of topics including the resurgence of Quadree Ollison, Chawntez Moss’s freshman season, his incoming freshman and more.
How big of a difference have you seen in Ollison to where he is now?
“The first couple of days we’ve seen a big improvement. He’s showing some verbal leadership skills. I think Moss caught up to him a little bit today, he was ahead of him until today but I’m pleased with where he is physically and I’m pleased he’s showing some leadership skills.”
Are you looking forward to a spring when you have more than just two scholarship guys?
“Yeah, it’s been a long time since I had just two scholarship guys but they need the work and we’ll have a good opportunity to see where they are and we’ll see where to insert the freshman when they get here.”
Do you think those two guys are aware of the type of talent that is coming in this summer?
“They’re aware, they’ve been made aware of that. When these kids come in, we don’t recruit backups. We don’t recruit kids that we don’t think aren’t good. We recruit kids that we think can come in and play.”
You haven’t had a lot of running backs that have redshirted, what is it about that position that lends itself to that and kids playing early?
“We recruit talented guys at that position. Most guys get nicked up and those guys have unique skill sets that you can insert in a number of different places. I anticipate both freshman playing this year. If they don’t they don’t but they need to come here with the mindset that they’re starters.”
Do any of those two freshman bring something to the roster that you don’t have right now?
“I just think both of them are talented guys and they just like football. They’re thick, they’re fast. They both have all the things we’re looking for in a running back.”
I guess Darrin will have a lot of work to do when he comes back?
“Yeah, he’s getting mental reps but there’s nothing like physical reps so he has work to do. The biggest thing, anytime a player is coming back from a leg injury or surgery, he needs to feel comfortable pushing off of it and sticking that leg in the ground. That’s the biggest hurdle.”
What was your evaluation of Chawntez as a freshman last season?
“I thought that when he got here last year, he came in hungry trying to prove something and he did that. And the fact that James had such a great year, it kind of takes the edge off a bit. Early in the season, he played really, really well. And as the season went off he sort of tailed off. I don’t know if that’s because of James or if he just got worn down as a freshman. He’s a talented kid that can certainly make plays.”
Was he mature beyond his years or what?
“He’s smart. He’s a football player. He’s a gym rat. He’s a football junkie. He’s always in there watching tape and asking questions. He texts me at 11 pm at night as he’s watching tape and scripts on his iPad. He’s already getting ready for practice. He always has questions, those guys play.”
After last season, did you have a conversation with Quadree about this upcoming season and what you were expecting from him?
“We talk about leadership and those type of things constantly. It takes some guys longer than others to get to that point to feel comfortable doing it. But those are things we always talk about. Then during the offseason, we go back and watch every play, we watch every pass and every big play and evaluate where you are. We correct the things on the field and try to develop these players as leaders. Some guys feel comfortable doing it because that’s their personality and some guys you just have to push them towards that. So it’s his time, he’s a junior, he’s been here for three years and we feel he has the ability to do that.”