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Pitt Fall Camp Preview: Running Back

Breaking down the running backs heading into Fall camp.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
  • James Conner 6'2" 240 Junior   (1,764 Rushing Yards, 26 Touchdowns, 5.9 yards per carry)
  • Stephen Ezekoye 5'9" 175 Freshman (Walk-on)
  • Darrin Hall 5'11" 215 Freshman  (Four-star recruit)
  • Rachid Ibrahim 6'1" 195 Junior  (263 rushing yards, 8 yards per carry)
  • Chris James 5'11" 210 Sophomore (437 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns, 5 yards per carry)
  • Qadree Ollison 6'2" 230 Freshman  (redshirted last season)
Projected Starter - James Conner

James Conner emerged last season as one of the top running backs in the entire country. He earned the Offensive Player of the Year award in the ACC after rushing for over 1,700 yards and posting 26 touchdowns. Conner will enter the 2015 campaign as one of the premier backs once again, as he has already earned numerous preseason awards and acknowledgments.

Conner is a workhorse back and the Pitt offense will likely ride him a lot again this season. But with a few more weapons and a more experience quarterback, his workload may decrease some in 2015. The junior from Erie is entering his third season, and will be draft eligible after this year.

Top Reserve - Chris James

Chris James lived up to his billing as a four-star recruit in his freshman campaign. With not a lot of carries available for backups, James managed to post 400 yards, and that performance paved the way for him to possibly be the heir apparent to James Conner at some point in his career. James has a little more burst than Conner, but also has the strength to run between the tackles.

Pitt's new offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney, managed to find carries for two 1,000-yard backs last season at Arkansas so he has experience in that area. I do not think Pitt will have that much splitting of the carries, but James will have plenty of opportunities to make plays and be a big part of the offense.

Third Down Back - Rachid Ibrahim

Rachid Ibrahim is a great change of pace back for this offense, and could assume a regular role as the team's "third-down back".  Ibrahim notched eight yards a carry last season, and even hauled in 11 passes out of the backfield. He is faster than Conner and James, and adds a little different element to the mix.  Look for him to carve a role once again in 2015.

The Rest  - Qadree Ollison, Darrin Hall, Stephen Ezekoye

Qadree Ollison is the player that most resembles James Conner among the backups. Ollison redshirted in 2014, but was a well regarded recruit coming out of high school. It will be tough for him to find carries being fourth on the depth chart.

Darrin Hall is an incoming four-star recruit from Ohio.  Hall is a similar build to Chris James, and has a similar skill set as well.  I do not expect Hall to see the field at all this season, and a redshirt is probably on the way.  It's a nice thing for Pitt, though, that they have the luxury to be able to redshirt a four-star recruit with all the depth they have in place.  Look for Hall to compete for the starting nod in 2016.

Stephen Ezekoye is a walk-on that just joined the team this year. He is smaller in build, and likely will be a backup in that third down role.  It would take an extreme circumstance for him to see the field in 2015.

*Incoming freshman walk-ons have not been added to the official roster yet.