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Did a Future RB1 Emerge in Pitt’s Bowl Win?

Did a Future RB1 Emerge in Pitt’s Bowl Win?

DETROIT — As Pitt entered the 2019 football season, one of the major questions for the Panthers was how they would be able to replace graduated running backs Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison.

Hall and Ollison each topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2018 as the Panthers leaned heavily on their running game with the pair of talented seniors.

At the end of 2019, the easy answer to that question has been nobody.

No Pitt back came even close to the 1,000-yard mark, with junior A.J. Davis pacing the field with 530 yards. Throughout the season, Davis, redshirt sophomore Todd Sibley, sophomore V’Lique Carter and freshman Vincent Davis shared opportunities, but none ever seemed to be able to grab hold of the job on even a regular basis.

But that might’ve changed in the Quick Lane Bowl.

A.J. Davis started the game, but Vincent Davis quickly became Pitt’s primary option in the running game. He finished with 69 yards and a touchdown and maybe more importantly, earned 15 carries, while Pitt’s other backs combined for just four.

It was the first time all season Vincent Davis dominated the carries in such a fashion, and it could be something he can continue to do moving forward as the Panthers look ahead to spring ball and 2020.

“I had to take it in all at once and just be mature about it,” Davis said. “I think I’ll be ready. I’m learning a lot. Coach [Andre] Powell has taught me a lot since I’ve been here. I still have some learning to do and this was a good learning experience.”

Pitt’s offense made a seismic shift away from the running game in 2019 in the first season under offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. After averaging 41 rushing attempts and 23 passing attempts in 2018, Pitt averaged 34 rushing attempts and 40 passing attempts per game in 2019.

But that doesn’t mean that it still can’t be explosive in the running game. What was mostly lacking for Pitt in 2019 was the high level of execution that Panthers exhibited in the past.

In 2018, Hall averaged 7.5 yards per carry, Ollison averaged 6.3 and Carter 8.1. This season, Vincent Davis paced the Pitt backs with a 5.1 yards-per-carry average. He, Sibley (5), A.J. Davis (4.2) and Carter (3.7) didn’t come close to replicating the production Pitt got from its departed 2018 rushers.

That’s somewhat to be expected with a group of inexperienced backs replacing fourth and fifth-year seniors. The growth of that group as returners in 2020 will be critical.

“There’s definitely a lot you haven’t seen yet,” Vincent Davis said. “You’ll see. Just wait.”

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Keith
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There isn’t a good power 5 RB that carried the ball this year for pitt

James from Florida
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James from Florida

I have to disagree, the offensive line was the problem they were very inconsistent all year in both run and pass blocking.

Mike Vukovcan
Admin

I’m still torn on what the real issue was: 1) backs 2) offensive line 3) lack of opportunity and commitment from Whipple. Still can’t decide on one.

John
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John

All of the above, after observing all season.

Terrence Otoole
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Terrence Otoole

He better hit the weight room if he’s gonna be our feature back,im still hoping for parrish and also abakinda will help the running game

Tom DiPasquale
Member
Tom DiPasquale

AJ davis is slow, stumbles about. I don’t see what anyone sees in him. Vincent Davis is quick. Hits the hole and for his size he pass protects well. His issue is fumbling the ball. But he’s got real burst. Narduzzi does this at just about every position–jumbles these guys around, pics the wrong player and then shuffles guys back and forth. I don’t get it.

CK-H2P
Member
CK-H2P

I remember a pretty good Pitt RB by the name of Dion Lewis who was also 5’8. The big difference was about 20-25 lbs and the challenge for Vincent will be bulking up to improve strength and durability and without losing quickness and agility. It was good to see him finish the season on a strong note and hopefully he can carry this momentum into the offseason.

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