When it was announced that James Conner was out for the season with an MCL injury, I initially expected the Panthers to go with sophomore running back Chris James to start. That, however, won't be the case as redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison will get the start instead. That was noted on the team's official depth chart this week.
Ollison as the starter makes some sense after he ran wild against Youngstown State last week. Still I was surprised to see him bypass James, who played last year as a true freshman while Ollison redshirted, based on the strength of one game.
James has been a dependable backup for Pitt and has more experience than Ollison, who played in his first ever collegiate game last weekend. Also, consider that Ollison missed a significant part of training camp, which was part of the reason that true freshman Darrin Hall was able to get into the mix. If anything, this is head coach Pat Narduzzi going with the hot hand. We can't expect Ollison to duplicate what he did last week and it should be noted that the Zips played well against the run in facing Oklahoma last week.
As I said earlier in the week, I still expect both Ollison and James to play a lot. Who plays more will likely depend on who is more effective. And with Conner's injury, Hall could go from seeing a very limited number of carries to getting somewhat meaningful snaps.
We'll get our first true test of the post-James Conner era this weekend - and it will be Ollison leading the way.