Following a lackluster Saturday in which they combined for 31 carries for 76 yards, tailbacks Vincent Davis II and Israel Abanikanda (as well as true freshman Rodney Hammond, who did not play against Tennessee) had a hard day of practice Tuesday during the Panthers’ media viewing window.
The trio began by working with the quarterbacks on dump-off passes, before moving on to a drill where they focused on using their blockers to evade defensive linemen and get to the second level. That was a particular area of concern for Pitt against the Volunteers, whose athletic defenders repeatedly swallowed up the Panthers at or behind the line of scrimmage.
10 of the Panthers 31 running plays resulted in a tackle for loss, forcing quarterback Kenny Pickett to throw early and often. As such, another heavy point of emphasis for the backs was pass blocking. Vincent Davis, the strongest blocker of the three, had a strong showing, while Abanikanda fluctuated between outstanding reps and lackluster ones.
Lastly, the backs focused on third down style plays, chipping a defender before sneaking out of the backfield, an interesting focus given Pickett’s outstanding plays to move the chains against Tennessee.
Despite game day performances that looked poor on film, head coach Pat Narduzzi expressed his confidence in the group during his Monday presser, in large part because of the Panthers final drive, where they ran the clock out with the game on the line.
“I define a consistent run game with four minutes to go in the game and we had to run it,” Narduzzi said. “I feel like we can run the ball when we need to.”
It remains to be seen if the Panthers will earn that confidence going in to their next game against a tough Western Michigan team.