Pitt's football team has two true freshmen running backs trying to get onto the field in a cluttered stable. We've talked about this quite a bit in the offseason but head coach Pat Narduzzi gave a little bit of clarification to their status for this year on Wednesday.
Typically, most of a team's freshmen will be redshirted and that's especially true if the players are in a unit that is considered deep with other talent. But the Panthers' freshmen are highly-regarded. A.J. Davis was a four-star recruit wanted by numerous major programs and Todd Sibley, while a three-star guy, was a former Ohio State recruit that also had an offer from Michigan, according to Rivals. In other words, both are very skilled guys and could play for any number of teams.
For either to get on the field this season, aside from injuries, they'll seemingly need to be in the team's top three backs. When asked about the freshmen being redshirted, Narduzzi was mostly clear. “If they are going to be fourth or fifth on the depth chart, then yes. But if we feel like they can help us win a game, we are going to play the guys to help us win."
However, he also offered this, too, which sounds like it's opening the door for one of them. "You would like to pick one—redshirt one and play the other—and find out who is close enough to help you."
I'm not terribly sure how to interpret this. Say that one is clearly ahead of the other but not in the top three. Does that mean he won't play barring injuries? Now, perhaps the team doesn't sustain a major injury and if one player goes down for a week, the other two guys may be able to carry the load. But anything beyond that could easily force one of these guys into action.
And as I've stated before, don't undersell the importance other guys Pitt uses as running backs. In addition to the experienced trio, Pitt also has any number of 'other' players that should get carries on sweeps and trick plays, including Quadree Henderson, Jordan Whitehead, and Maurice Ffrench. Add those guys in and the number of carries you'd need from a fourth back (or even a third one with an injury) are minimal.
My overall feeling is that if Pitt doesn't sustain a major injury, one of those guys would have to be really impressive for it to make sense to play them this season. Aside from that, the Panthers just have too many options.