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Pitt starting running back job remains unsettled

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

When Pitt star James Conner went down with an MCL injury, the starting job at running back opened up. Three games in, however, the role is still up for grabs.

Chris James entered the season as Conner's primary backup but injury issues have slowed him down. Redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison had his chance to start after a monster game (207 yards) in the season opener, but a subpar effort against Akron forced him to a backup role again. In the team's last game against Iowa, true freshman Darrin Hall received a shot at the job.

Hall had only 38 yards on 14 carries against the Hawkeyes and head coach Pat Narduzzi had mixed reviews on his performance against a top ten rushing defense.

"I think he did a good job. He didn't run the ball like how we wanted him to run it but it was a good front on Iowa. We knew it wasn't going to be easy to run the ball against them. I think he did a good job."

Ollison did fare better in his starting opportunity against Akron (21 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown), but that was also against weaker competition. Both have had moments, but neither has been good enough to become 'the man.'

Jim will have his look at the entire depth chart a little later this week, but at running back, Pitt has no declared starter. Narduzzi says all three backs will be ready, which means Chris James should be back in the mix after getting only two carries against Iowa and not playing at all against Akron.

I'm interested to see what Pitt will do here. Since the opener, the running game has struggled. Both Ollison and Hall have gotten a chance, so if James is truly healthy, I'm hoping to see a good bit of him. He was solid last year as Conner's backup and it would be nice to get an extended look against him.

Pitt can likely get by with a running-back-by-committee approach. And keeping those guys fresh by rotating them in and out of the game might even be the preferred option at this point. But it's clear that the Panthers at least need to get the running game going as a whole and no one has been able to stake a claim to being the leader in the backfield in Conner's absence.

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