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Pat Narduzzi Remains Non-Committal In Naming Pitt Starting RB



Pitt running back Rodney Hammond Jr.

Rodney Hammond Jr. is listed as the starter on the Pitt two-deep depth chart, and he was one of two starting running backs in the season opener against Wofford, but Pat Narduzzi isn’t ready to abandon a running back by committee approach yet.

As it stands entering Cincinnati preparation Tuesday, Narduzzi believes that Pitt has three very capable starting running backs.

Hammond and Daniel Carter — who put in a career performance, nearly setting a career season-high in carries in just one game — were both named as starters against Wofford last week. But Narduzzi isn’t sure what the rotation will be like this weekend.

“This week in practice — we’ve got three starters,” Narduzzi said Monday at his weekly press conference. “A lot of it’ll be based on practice. Again, Daniel’s (start) was really based on just I would say camp and just — he grinded it out and was there every day. Didn’t miss a day at all. That was probably an offensive decision.”

It’s difficult to really take a whole bunch from the Wofford win, with all due respect to the Terriers’ defense, but Carter was strong. He paced Pitt’s running backs in run snaps (16), carries (11) and yards (65). And he ran well, racking up 71 yards after contact (6.45 yards per attempt) and forced six missed tackles.

Carter even broke off a 22-yard run and scooped up a botched snap and dove into the end zone with it. A very solid day all in all.

It was C’Bo Flemister who received the second-most work Saturday, if you don’t count Phil Jurkovec’s steady dose of designed runs, as he racked up 11 run snaps, eight carries and 24 yards.

Somewhat surprisingly, Hammond only received eight run snaps, turning those into five carries for 25 yards and two touchdowns — including a vintage 10-yard score showcasing that elite lateral movement. But he did drop what could’ve likely been a touchdown Saturday, too. So, still work to be done.

Hammond was expected to follow the Israel Abanikanda path to stardom this season, taking the next step and commanding the carries share over the course of the season. Pitt still used the running backs in the room last season, especially Hammond, but Narduzzi wants to see a running back force his hand.

“You earn your rep,” Narduzzi said. “You get out there. If you get 10 carries, you get 10 carries. What did you do with those carries? Did you make the right read? Did you hit it? Did you get hit? Did you fall down? Did you make somebody miss? Making somebody miss and being your own blocker is critical as a running back.”

Abanikanda played his way into a position where Narduzzi and Andre Powell were unable — or even unwilling — to take him off the field.

I still think that Hammond is going to emerge as the lead back in the running backs room, as he was when Abanikanda was unavailable last season, but it’s clear that Narduzzi doesn’t care who is carrying the ball. If it’s Hammond, great. He loves Flemister’s veteran presence, and Carter is still a load even after slimming down.

A week of practice, as it is every week, will be important for the pecking order to continue to shake out. But I believe Hammond, with a dose of Carter and Flemister, will be how Pitt operates going forward.

Derrick Davis Jr. and Montravius Lloyd still have some growth to do in order to crack the rotation.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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19 days ago

I’ll assume Narduzzi knows what he is doing and will ultimately settle on a guy, or not. If he doesn’t, maybe that’s a high-class problem because we then have 2-3 guys that aren’t significantly different in terms of successful play. Meaning that, there isn’t a huge dropoff while one gets a breather. Most teams would love to be in that position. H2P !

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