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Pitt Football Training Camp: Despite talent, Panthers' freshmen running backs could redshirt

Photo used with permission of the University of Pittsburgh athletics department -

Pitt's football team added two quality freshmen running backs to the roster this fall in four-star recruit A.J. Davis and three-star Todd Sibley, who was formerly an Ohio State commit. Both could probably play for any number of programs this year and they may get on the field for the Panthers this year.

But with Pitt pretty deep at the position even despite the loss of James Conner, there's no guarantee they'll get much playing time. Even a redshirt could be in the works, depending on the Panthers' need, according to position coach Andre Powell.

"In a perfect world, you like to save those guys, but we get guys ready to play," said Powell. "We will get them all ready to play and it will sort out. If we don't need them, we will redshirt them. If we need them and they can play winning football, we will play them."

Now, don't mistake that as they aren't necessarily good enough to play. Powell says both are talented.

"They're talented," Powell confirmed. "It's just the volume of things they're required to know that's slowing them down. That's typical for most freshmen across the board."

I think that's Pitt's stance in general, at any position, typically, so it's not breaking news or anything. But I'm really hoping they can redshirt both, if possible. While both may be able to play and contribute this year, the key thing to remember is if it's worth the cost of losing a year of eligibility. If they are out there playing a lot and able to beat out other guys on the depth chart, by all means, go ahead and play them. But unless the upside to playing them is such that the team is being harmed by not playing them, I'd prefer to see them redshirt if possible.

Two other factors are at play here. First, injuries are always a determinant in trying to figure out what guys can and can't redshirt.. Even one injury of consequence to the other three guys likely means that one of them has to play. Second, Pitt also has some carries going to guys like fullback George Aston, as well as non-running backs Quadree Henderson, Jordan Whitehead, and Maurice Ffrench ... and anyone else Pitt wants to utilize in their jet sweeps and reverses. That will mean even less carries available.

Finally, it should be noted that, even with Conner here last season, Pitt still played four backs. Such a scenario this year, without a given like Conner, no less, is quite possible. That's also especially true in that Pitt's philosophy (as was reinforced after a recent practice this year) will be to go with the hot hand.

All of that said, there's been more talk this week that Qadree Ollison has improved so much and he, along with Darrin Hall and Chawntez Moss, should be enough to handle the bulk of the load if healthy. If we're only talking about Davis or Sibley carrying the ball about 20 times this year, I'd rather keep their year of eligibility intact.

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