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Pitt Football Spring Practices: Backing up James Conner

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt's plan on offense? Get the ball to James Conner and Tyler Boyd.

Well, it might not be that basic, but those guys are the cornerstones. The Panthers haven't used the tight ends much lately, there isn't a known commodity as the second receiver, and Conner will dominate the backfield.

Pitt does appear to be switching things up at running back a little bit according to new head coach Pat Narduzzi. Last year, Conner and Chris James were the main guys toting the ball while Rachid Ibrahim and Isaac Bennett were the backs in there on passing downs. Narduzzi says that's going to change:

I guess in the past, they had two guys that were runners. Two tailbacks that were the running tailbacks and two were the pass guys, is how it was set up. James [Conner] is in for most of the runs, Rachid was in for most of the passes and they kind of sorted it that way. It's hard to play in the NFL when you're not in for any passes or runs. So we're going to mix that up and let those guys do everything.

Hard to have much of a problem with that. The thing that sticks out to me about it, though, is that Ibrahim seems to be so dangerous in open field. Paul Chryst utilized him on passing downs (though not enough for my liking) and him being in there on those situations just made sense - particularly because of the depth there with James and senior Isaac Bennett. It almost makes sense to put him in that same role again since Conner will eat up so many of the carries and Pitt also has Qadree Ollison, who redshirted last year.

Conner's backup would seem to be James, but even that isn't set in stone. On the use of backs not named best in the world Conner, Narduzzi didn't appear to define a clear cut No. 2 guy.

"The role is who's hot."

No problem with that, either. However, I do hope that guys are afforded the chance to get into a rhythm. As we saw a little back in 2013 when Bennett and Conner split carries, the consistency wasn't always there. I'd think that it's even harder for a backup to get in any kind of a rhythm when the few carries he's getting are cut even more and doled out to other backups.

At the end of the day, the plan is to get the best production you can get in any given game, though, and Narduzzi alluded to that with his statement. My guess is that James will be the primary backup but Ibrahim has been impressive in short bursts in the past, too. That could mean an increased role on the field with Bennett having departed.

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