After the untimely departure of Rushel Shell, all attention shifted to Isaac Bennett. The junior was the next guy in line and the perception was that, after looking impressive in past practices and even playing as a true freshman, that he would be the unquestioned starter.
Little did we know that true freshman James Conner would step up in quite the way he has.
Conner drew rave reviews in training camp this year and ironically, it was likely the absence of Bennett that helped push his emergence along. Bennett, injured during much of training camp this fall, sat out while Conner picked up quite a few reps with the first team. That alone didn't do it, though.
Conner has been impressive in all of Pitt's games so far. The two had practically identical stats after Pitt's opener against Florida State (both had nine carries and Bennett edged Conner in yards 35 to 34), but against New Mexico, Conner began to take over. Both looked good, but Conner was slightly better. Conner had 119 yards on 12 carries while Bennett had 101 on 14 attempts - each had two touchdowns.
Paul Chryst gave Conner the bulk of the carries in the Duke game and it paid off in a big way. The true freshman responded with 173 yards on only 26 carries for a gaudy 6.7 average. On the season, Conner is averaging just over seven yards a rush. Bennett had 12 carries for only 38 yards against the Blue Devils and Chryst left little doubt that Conner was his go to guy on Saturday.
Don't make the mistake of thinking Bennett won't get on the field, though. Chryst loves to use multiple running backs and assuming Bennett is productive, will still continue to get carries. But for now, it looks like Conner could soon become the starter.