Derrick Davis hasn’t really ever had the chance to be a full-time running back.
He played both ways at Gateway and was recruited to LSU as a safety. There was only a brief period to end the 2022 season where Brian Kelly let him run as a back.
The sample size at the collegiate level is limited, just 11 carries over two games, but the ability is there. He led Gateway to success as a lead back. And now Pitt is going to see if Davis still has what it takes to run at the highest level.
Pat Narduzzi’s pitch to Davis was very simple: come be the next Israel Abanikanda.
I don’t know if that will happen, and that thought process will also lead into discussing the configuration of the running backs room next season, but Davis will finally have his chance to be a running back full-time. There’s a history of success there.
Davis was ultra-productive at Gateway, especially during his junior season as he led the Tigers to a WPIAL Class-5A title. He ran for 1,507 yards, added 547 more yards through the air and racked up 28 touchdowns on the way to Heinz Field.
He missed time as a senior, but he still racked up nearly 1,000 yards and 11 scores.
Against Purdue in the Citrus Bowl, he ran the ball six times for 29 yards — and he barreled his way into the end zone for his first collegiate touchdown. At 6-foot, 205 pounds, he’s well-built and powerful, but he’s also quick with the ball in his hands.
Derrick Davis Jr Touchdown pic.twitter.com/FXppQzl2Lz
— DAVIDKEY JR (@DAVIDKEY327) January 2, 2023
Davis should be a great complement to rising starter Rodney Hammond Jr. in the backfield once the two start running together.
“I believe so and believe (Rodney Hammond and I are) going to click really well,” Davis told PSN today. “I’m really excited. Get ready.”
Hammond is the type of running back with a nearly unmatched twitch, able to cut and jump his way around defenders to pick up extra yards. He flashed it often in his opportunities to shine in 2022. And he’s the kind of all-around back that should break out in the offense in 2023.
If Davis can provide further speed and power to Hammond’s shiftiness, the duo should be able to operate on a level comparable to 2022’s success.
The only question now that we know for a fact where Davis’ future lies is what the rest of the room will look like. Frank Cignetti Jr.’s offense will utilize multiple backs. As of now C’Bo Flemister and Vincent Davis have yet to announce their decision regarding next season. And I’d guess Daniel Carter has a decision to make, too.
Montravius Lloyd and T.J. Harvison are also arriving as true freshmen options, but I think the pair will likely spend a year growing in the system. Pitt will want veteran options to complement its new duo.
Also at this point, I’d say it’s more likely that Flemister returns than Davis. A Hammond-Davis-Flemister trio has potential, and Carter — if he chooses to return — is a big short-yardage back.
Pitt’s running back room will have its hands full replacing Abanikanda in 2023, but a trio of Hammond-Davis-Flemister would be more than capable entering the new season.