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Battle for backup running back spot continues in spring practice

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

It's pretty clear that barring anything unforeseen, Rushel Shell will enter this season as the football team's starting running back. But this spring, the backup spot is up for grabs, as Jim noted in the preview for the position earlier this month.

Pitt held the first scrimmage of the spring last week and the two leading candidates got quite a bit of work. That was likely due to Shell going down with an injury fairly early after racking up 30 yards on ten carries. Bennett got the most work with 29 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown. But Crockett played a good deal as well, getting 67 yards on 18 carries.

Crockett averaged about a yard per carry more than Bennett and as the Post-Gazette's Sam Werner noted, Crockett looked better, too.

This is far from over, obviously and Bennett will have more chances to impress as he did last spring. He was the clear No. 3 guy this past season, so you'd think that he likely has a slight edge. But he was a complete no show after the first five games and couldn't get onto the field (he had only three carries over the team's final eight games). In other words - the spot is completely up for grabs.

Regardless of who gets the job, one thing I'll be watching for is how big of a role all three play in catching balls out of the backfield. Ray Graham excelled at that and had 66 receptions the past two seasons. That was a nice option for the team in 2nd and 3rd and long situations and they actually utilized it quite a bit. Bennett has some history of catching passes, but no one has the reputation of Graham. It will be interesting to see how much head coach Paul Chryst tries to utilize that.

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