Among several other factors, those including Tino's progression as a QB, the offensive line, and how well the defense replaces a boatload of starters from last season, Pitt has both a luxury and a potential downfall in their corps of running backs. Any program in the country would be thrilled to have the running back stable that Pitt has going into the 2012 season with a (hopefully) healthy Ray Graham, spring standout Isaac Bennett, and the best running back in WPIAL history in Rushel Shell.
And yet, Pitt is left with a predicament. What is the best way to handle the running back rotation?ACL injuries, obviously, are nothing to mess around with. Most running backs usually suffer some sort of decline the year following an ACL injury. It's likely that the same could happen to Ray Graham as Anson's post this morning briefly mentioned.
Ideally, Paul Chryst would like to ease Graham into the season with a pair of easy non-conference games to not only limit the number of carries Graham gets to ensure the knee is ready for the full demands of a football season, but also make sure that Bennett and Shell can be serviceable in case Graham isn't able to handle a full season. Unfortunately, while Pitt starts off easy with Youngstown State, two of their most important games of the season come in Weeks 2 and 3 in Cincinnati and at home against Virginia Tech, where Pitt will very likely need a fully healthy Ray Graham to win the game.
Pitt doesn't have a proven offensive weapon outside of Graham and with Tino Sunseri not a sure thing as of this point, Pitt will have to look towards the ground game to lead the way offensively. Bennett and Shell don't have enough game experience yet, but they will not only get their fair share of carries, especially in Paul Chryst's offense that relies so much on the ground game, but they will also be expected to take on more should Graham not be 100% come September 1st.
Tino can be serviceable under Chryst but from what we've seen of him, he's not going to take over a game on his own. He's going to need a solid ground game to get Pitt to bowl eligibility in Year One under Paul Chryst.