PITTSBURGH — After losing last years running back tandem of Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall to graduation, next in line for Pitt, or at RBU as some like to call it, is the running back duo of A.J. Davis and Todd Sibley, who will look to excel in Mark Whipple’s balanced offensive attack.
Davis and Sibley who both have very limited game action. Davis, a junior from Lakeland, Florida, is primed to be the lead horse in the running back room this year. During the 2018 season, he played in nine games, totaling 32 carries for 134 rushing yards. Sibley, a redshirt sophomore from Akron, Ohio, will look to push Davis for the starting job in 2019. Sibley primarily played special teams during the 2018 season and only had one carry for a loss of one yard at running back.
Replacing two 1,000-yard rushers will be no easy feat. Sibley admits it has been different without Ollison and Hall around, but he believes he and Davis have and will continue to be the new leaders of the running back room.
“It’s definitely really different, just their presence, they brought a lot to the game and a lot to the room, especially their leadership,” Sibley said after practice on Tuesday. “It was big for me and A.J. to step up and take control of the room, be the next two guys to have the leadership role, and V’Lique (Carter) has done a good job, too, at stepping up. We are just trying to replace what they brought and bring our own little style to it.”
Davis also admits “it feels weird” not having Ollison and Hall around anymore. Davis respects them so much, he thought of them being more than just leaders of the running back room. He thought they served as role models.
“You know, they gave us big steps on what to do the next year when they leave,” Davis said. “They were role models for us. They showed us how to finish plays after contact, break through tackles, don’t give up and keep fighting.”
Davis and Sibley are joined in the backfield by newly converted running back V’Lique Carter, who excelled last year, primarily on his dazzling jet sweeps. For the 2019 season, Carter has permanently been moved to running back. It will be interesting to see how Whipple will use him, as the running backs will see a different role in 2019.
“It has definitely changed a lot,” Sibley said. “Coach Whipple is utilizing us all over the field. We are lining up a wideout, in the slot, we are doing things that we were not normally doing last year. Coach Whipple kind of blowing up the playbook. We add plays every day. He’s trying to get everyone involved. His key thing is scoring touchdowns and getting the playmakers the ball.”
In has certainly been noticeable in spring practice how Whipple plans to use the running backs in many interesting ways. At practice on Tuesday, the quarterbacks and running backs were seen running twin-sets at practice, where they were utilizing two running backs in the formation.
Head coach Pat Narduzzi believes that the one-two punch of Davis and Sibley will bring a lot to his offense.
“A.J. turns a two-yard run into 12 and (Todd) Sibley is a physical dude,” Narduzzi said. “They are both good in pass protection, they both know what they are doing right now and there is a lot of offense installed. There are a lot of different things we are doing offensively.”