We’ve discussed the TEs and the WRs over the last two articles so let’s stick with the offense and address what is always an important part of any productive gameplanning – the Running Backs. Let’s look at what our RBs did last season:
|Darrin Hall||128||628||4.9||92 (TD)||9|
What they contributed to was an overall NCAA ranking of 84th out of 129 teams in Rushing Offense with 148 ypg and 21 total TDs on the ground… pretty poor all around. How do we get better as quickly as possible? I say back to the future with that.
I’ll say right off the bat that I think rsSR Qadree Ollison has been mishandled by this coaching staff over the last two years and I can’t figure out why. If you remember he did a bang-up job in relief of James Conner when Conner was undergoing his cancer treatments and missed the 2015 season.
That season Ollison carried the ball 212 times for 1,121 yards (5.3 ypc) and 11 TDs – a great outing for a rsFR and done under pressure to produce because a star RB was unable to play. Actually his was a better season that Conner’s return in 2016 when Conner ran for 1,092 yards at a 5.1 ypc clip.
Ollison’s work in ’15 was impressive to this writer, that’s for sure…not so much to the coaching staff apparently because they never trusted him at that level of involvement carrying the ball again.
Instead of Ollison returning as a featured back last season we saw now-SR Darrin Hall become the primary and Ollison relegated to the FB position to cover George Aston’s absence due to injury. Ollision did a good job at FB but he would produce more elsewhere. Well, Aston looks to return this season so who does the staff want to be the bell cow of RBs?
Last year Hall’s production looked OK on paper with 128 carries for 628 yards (4.9 ypc) and 9 TDs, but that is very misleading. The fact is that Hall had one monster day against Duke where he ripped off two huge runs of 92 and 79 yards. No one is complaining about that as we won that game on the backs of those runs so credit is due, but when you are trying to project what a player will do in the future it is important to understand what he truly did in the past.
Take away those two big runs and you see more of what Hall’s norm was in running the ball and that was 126 carries for 457 yards (a poor 3.6 ypc) and 7 TDs which is mediocre at best. I firmly believe we can’t afford that type of production out of our primary running back again this year and hope to win more than five football games.
Which brings us back around to Aston returning at FB thus freeing up Ollison to carry the ball. Unless there was something going on with Ollison and the staff that has never been made public why shouldn’t this happen? There were swirling rumors that Ollison ‘was in the doghouse’ or that he reported to fall camp overweight, but that never really explained the drop off in the coaches involvement of him over the last two years.
We’ll see what goes with that issue this spring and fall but my opinion is you go with who was more consistently successful until someone comes along to yank the job away.
And who might we have on roster to do that?
Well, Chawntez Moss had been dismissed from the team – no great loss there as he didn’t produce much for us at all. But we do have SO Anthony Davis returning. He grabbed 16 carries last season and didn’t do much with them in gaining only 40 yards total. There was an air of desperation on the staff’s part burning his redshirt for only spars contributions, but in their defense I think the coaches looked at each other and said “if the other RBs aren’t really doing anything why not throw the heralded 4* recruit in there hoping to hit the lottery with him?”
Davis will be back in the mix this year but I’m not sure how much he’ll play because Narduzzi tends to stick with playing experience in all positions. Joining the current active running backs will be two other kids to keep an eye on.
First is Todd Sibley, who at 5’10” and 211 is more of a power back than Davis is. Sibley had a roundabout way to getting to Pitt after committing to Ohio State and then getting pissed off because Urban Meyer told him they were going to grayshirt him for a year – which means he would postpone his enrollment in classes until the second term of his freshman year and skip the actual season. He was having none of it and came to Pitt (just to redshirt last year which is ironic in itself).
I’m looking forward to seeing what Sibley can do. I’m not super high on his jetting into the lineup and surprising everyone, but he may be a 3rd down or pass catching RB we need in situational playcalls.
Now – to the future.
True Freshman Mychale Salahuddin is at the forefront of untested Pitt RBs fans want to watch play right away. A late Rivals.com 4* commitment, Salahuddin has the type of abilities that superstar RBs at Pitt tend to have – at least the ones not named James Conner. Fast, shifty, turn on a dime stuff. here’s a bit I found on him;
Four players earned invitations to Nike’s Opening finals held later this summer in Oregon. Those were Ohio State defensive line commit Taron Vincent, Penn State running back commit Ricky Slade, uncommitted cornerback A.J. Lytton, and uncommitted running back Mychale Salahuddin. Three of those invitations were no surprise; Vincent, Slade, and Lytton are all five-stars and were expected to be great.
“I’m a crafty back,” he told me. “I can use my explosiveness. I can use my power. I can use my speed. I can get past a defender. I can go through the defender. Whatever you want.” He admires Le’Veon Bell’s patience and Leonard Fournette’s complete game, and his teammates call him “Houdini,” which is about the best nickname ever.
Something to watch on Salahuddin: He prefers a pro-style scheme.
That isn’t saying he’s going to be one. But when I look at the current RBs on roster today he’s the only player I see being able to have that superstar season we have always needed tohave really good seasons at Pitt.
1976 we had Tony Dorsett with 2.150 yards and 22 TDs; 2008 with MC; 2008 we had LeSean McCoy’s 1488 and 21TDs; 2009 Dion Lewis came in with 1,799 and 17 TDs and then in 2010 we saw Lewis and Graham combine for 1,983 yards and 21 TDs.
At Pitt success revolves much more around the RB then it does for the QB or any other position – we get a star runner and we win lots of game…plain and simple. The only question is do we have that type of talent on the roster this year to find a kid who can breakout and carry the offense on his shoulders like those mentioned above did.
We’ll especially need it this upcoming season as we’ll have SO Kenny pickett behind center as our QB and, while we think he’ll be a good one, we have yet to see him take the reins as the season;s starter and produce – our running game just might be more needed than ever if he falters.
HERE ARE OUR RETURNING 2018 RBs: