For the first time since 2007, Pitt’s season will not end with a bowl game. As a result of the year being officially over, news is hitting a little sooner this year.
Earlier today, junior wide receiver Quadree Henderson announced he’s heading to the NFL a year early. Also in the news file is that running back Chawntez Moss has been dismissed from the team. And if I was a betting man, I’d think the offseason will bring some more surprises as well.
If I’m thinking of a summary on Moss it’s that his career went from zero to 60 to zero in a very short time. Moss came in as a true freshman and, despite entering a crowded backfield with James Conner, was intent on playing right away as a true freshman. It was almost kind of laughable. He wasn’t a big-time recruit when he committed and didn’t have many big offers, either. Everything about him just screamed redshirt, really. Not in a bad sort of way - just kind of a, ‘take your time, kid’ type of deal.
"I came early just to pretty much stay out of trouble, and to get a jump on ... just getting to know the guys, know the playbook," Moss said.
Moss’ desire to play immediately seemed a little far-fetched at the time. Pitt had a returning James Conner who was last seen as the ACC Offensive Player of the Year. They also had Qadree Ollison back, who had just won the ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year award after replacing Conner during his injured season. And if that wasn’t enough, they had Darrin Hall and Rachid Ibrahim back as well.
But the joke was on us. Looking past that infamous quote, Moss showing up early did indeed help him. He impressed in spring drills and was the first running back chosen in the spring game draft. Coaches reportedly told him before the season that he wouldn’t be redshirted and he wasn’t, getting carries by the third game.
Early in the season, in fact, he looked like the best back of the group at times. In a three-game stretch against North Carolina, Marshall, and Georgia Tech, Moss rushed 27 times, averaging 7.0 yards per carry and racking up 189 yards on the ground. The future looked pretty bright for him. He had gone from a virtual unknown to being perhaps the best back on the team by midseason.
But as quickly as he rose, he fell just as hard. Moss battled some injury stuff in the second half of last season and was barely heard from the rest of the year as Conner re-emerged. Over his last seven games, Moss rushed 13 times for only 30 yards.
There was promise for him to be a big factor this season but that never really came to fruition. Moss got some opportunities but quickly faded. After not playing in the opener, he got double digit carries in three of Pitt’s next four games but averaged under three yards a carry. He did make a few plays, including a 48-yard catch against Rice. But on the ground as a running back, he struggled to do much of anything (not unlike the rest of the running backs for much of the season, to be fair to him).
After that, it was kind of the beginning of the end. Moss’ timing was horrible as he scored two touchdowns at Rice, but was suspended for the next few games and wouldn’t play most of the rest of the year. He had one carry against North Carolina and that was it.
Like I said, zero to 60 to zero all in the span of two seasons.
In terms of Pitt, this shouldn’t be a killer. Hall sort of emerged as the guy late in the year and is probably the No. 1 guy into next season. Behind him, you’ve got Ollison, who was a little up and down, making noise early before fading. Pitt also returns sophomore running back A.J. Davis and redshirt-freshman-to-be Todd Sibley, who with Davis is another highly-touted kid. Pitt should have plenty of depth and if Hall and Ollison stay healthy, they should be fine there.
As far as what’s next for Moss, I’d be surprised if he didn’t end up in Division I-A somewhere. He’s certainly shown he’s capable of playing at this level and you’ve got to think someone will take a chance on him. Playing time will be a factor for him so that will limit his options a bit. But there are enough schools out there that I expect him to still be competing at a high level.