PITTSBURGH — Pitt will have both its starting running backs available against Virginia Tech as Israel Abanikanda and Rodney Hammond Jr. are dressed, but a couple of offensive — and one defensive — contributors will not play against VT.
Abanikanda and Hammond Jr. are dressed and active, but Konata Mumpfield, Carter Warren, Owen Drexel and Brandon George are not dressed for Virginia Tech.
Abanikanda didn’t return after halftime of the Georgia Tech game last weekend, and while Vincent Davis ran hard against the GT defense, his two fumbles led to 10 points from the Yellow Jackets.
Even with the missed half, Abanikanda is still first in the ACC in all-purpose yards (770 yards), second in rushing yards (510 yards) and touchdowns (7).
Hammond hasn’t played since the season opener against West Virginia, missing the last four games, and his presence as a rusher and receiver has been missed. It remains to be seen just how much Hammond will play today, but he is active and seemingly ready to go. With over 125 yards of offense against WVU, he’s a contributor that can change a game.
Warren and Drexel, who both missed the Georgia Tech game last weekend, will once again be replaced in the lineup.
Warren hasn’t played since the first half of the Rhode Island game, taking 30 snaps before giving way to Branson Taylor. Taylor made the start against Georgia Tech last week, but Gabe Houy jumped into the game at right tackle to allow Matt Goncalves to slide across the line to left tackle.
Warren’s presence, not just physically but in terms of leadership and veteran experience, was missed along the offensive line last weekend. A combination of Taylor and Goncalves was Pitt’s plan last week, and it may be the plan again this week. Jake Kradel has filled the center void since Drexel went down against Tennessee, and that will likely continue.
Mumpfield was a surprise scratch, coming out to warmups in sweats, and he leaves a void as Pitt’s leading pass catcher (24 catches for 257 yards and a touchdown) that will help be filled by Jaden Bradley.
George has missed a couple of games this season, and when he has, SirVocea Dennis has taken nearly every snap at Mike linebacker. That will likely continue against Virginia Tech.