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Three Panthers set to play in all-star games

Pitt will be represented in the East-West Shrine Game and the Collegiate Bowl

Marshall v Pittsburgh Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Three former standouts from the Pitt football team will represent the university in the two senior all-star games set to be played on Saturday, and another was invited but will be unable to participate due to a recent injury.

The first game on the slate this weekend is the East-West Shrine Game, which will kick off from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, at 3 p.m. ET. It will be televised on the NFL Network. Former Pitt running back Darrin Hall will take part in the game, and he’ll be joined by a familiar face, as former Pitt lineman Alex Bookser will be blocking for him.

Bookser, a former four-star recruit out of Mt. Lebanon High School, played in 50 games during his collegiate career and started in 39. He shifted between right guard and right tackle during his four years at Pitt, eventually settling at right tackle, where he had 13 starts in 2018.

Hall was an explosive running back known for his quickness during his time at Pitt. He had a spurt of incredible production during the 2017 season, as he ran for 486 yards and eight touchdowns in three games against Duke, Virginia and North Carolina. He followed that up with his best year yet in 2018, as he amassed 1,144 yards and 10 touchdowns as a key component of the Panthers’ rushing attack.

Qadree Ollison, who was Pitt’s leading rusher in 2015 and 2018, was extended an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game but will reportedly sit out to recover from the ankle injury he suffered during the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.

”The ankle is doing well,” Wayne Ollison, Qadree's father, told Mike Meiler of the Niagara Gazette. “If he had to play in a game, he could. But it’s not worth going out there and risking re-aggravating something.”

Meiler also noted that Ollison has accepted an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine and will be training for that in lieu of showcasing his talents in St. Petersburg.

The East-West Shrine Game will be followed by the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, which will be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Kickoff for Saturday’s second all-star game is set for 5 p.m. ET, and it can be seen on FS1. Pitt fullback George Aston is set to participate in the game.

Aston leaves behind a reputation as one of Pitt’s toughest players in recent memory. A converted linebacker, he thrived at fullback, throwing blocks and pounding the ball into the end zone in short-yardage situations. He finished his Pitt career with 14 touchdowns and is considered one of the best options at fullback in the upcoming NFL draft.


Update: Jan. 19, 2019, 5:00 p.m. ET

Pitt lineman Alex Bookser was conspicuously absent during the first half of the East-West Shrine Game, and it appears he is now listed as out for the game with an injury on the official West team roster.

Bookser was active earlier in the week and impressed during practices. Jon Ledyard of The Draft Network noted that he pancaked McNeese State linebacker B.J. Blunt.

It's unclear if Bookser is just sitting out as a precaution ahead of the NFL draft, as is the case with Qadree Ollison, or if he suffered a setback during one of the week's practices.