Isaac Bennett is having a breakout spring (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
In case you didn't pay that much attention to the spring practices, Isaac Bennett was quite the success story.
Bennett had his third touchdown of 50 or more yards last week, busting out for a 70-yard run and followed that up with a big spring game. He's getting a heavy workload due to Ray Graham's injury and the fact that star freshman Rushel Shell isn't yet with the team. If Shell surpasses him (which, by the way, isn't a given) in the fall, that begs the question:
What does Pitt do with him?
Bennett is the solid number two right now, obviously, but that could change when Rushel Shell gets on campus. Shell will need to really impress to overtake him since Bennett has a full year under his belt and also the benefit of this spring. If Bennett holds onto the backup job, the point will be moot. But what happens if Shell overtakes him in fall camp and looks so impressive the coaches simply have to bump him up over Bennett?
Well, as we saw last year with the injuries to Ray Graham and then to backup Zach Brown, Pitt needed Bennett to step in. So even if he slips behind Shell for the backup spot, there's still a chance he could play. The bottom line is that it's a good problem to have. Pitt needs as many good athletes as they can get their hands on. And when you toss in the fact that Graham will be gone after this year, Bennett will get his shot. He's only a sophomore this season and will be able to help later on.
Another thing to remember is that this was only the spring. He went up against teammates who, while playing hard, aren't trying to kill him. We've seen other players have good springs and then flop miserably when the season gets here.
So all of that said, there's the slim possibility that will make fans cringe - a redshirt. I actually mentioned this last year before Bennett's breakout spring. And while it's probably unlikely ...
If Pitt really wanted to get creative, they could redshirt him. Now, if Bennett's the second best back on the team, then he should play. But here's the thing - I've got to think Shell, who pretty much had his pick of schools, wouldn't like the idea of a redshirt. Bennett wouldn't, either, but he might be more amenable to it if he was only going to play sparingly anyway. Pitt could play all three, but would it really benefit the program to have all three suit up when only two may play significant roles? If Bennett truly has star potential, is it worth it to play him this season as a third back instead of saving that year for down the road after Graham is gone?
When it comes to finding time for all three, there's the oft-quoted statistic about Wisconsin having two 1,000-yard rushers in 2010 and a third guy with 996. That's a rare instance, though, and behind a very good offensive line. Suffice to say - it's not the same situation at Pitt.
Most of the time, we think of redshirts in terms of only freshman. But as Pitt showed with Pat Bostick, they can redshirt Bennett this year as a sophomore. Doing so would allow Graham and Shell to take the bulk of the load this season. Someone like Corey Davis could fill in as the third running back and give Bennett an extra year of eligibility
There's something to be said for playing your best guys, but if Bennett is the third back and Graham and Shell stay relatively healthy, then redshirting him could be an attractive option. He could sit out this season and come back to team up with Shell in 2013.
I'm not saying Pitt needs to go this route, but it could make sense.