As the Pitt Panthers football team enters their final week of training camp, one of the brightest spots so far for Paul Chryst and his staff has been the emergence of the running backs.
Coming into camp, all eyes were on Isaac Bennett, who is recovering from injury, and James Connor, who will also be used on the defensive side of the ball.
But there are so many more options for Chryst to turn to this season.
Sophomore Rachid Ibrahim, who totaled 343 all-purpose yards and scored a touchdown as a freshman last season, has really opened up some eyes thus far and could establish himself a role as the team’s third-down back.
During Saturday’s scrimmage, Ibrahim ran for a touchdown and took a swing pass 60-yards, showing that he can be effective both inside the tackles and in space.
Thrown in freshmen Chris James and Qadree Ollison and depth at the running back spot is a great problem to have for the Panthers.
With Connor entrenched as the starter and Bennett being brought along very slowly after undergoing shoulder surgery four months ago, someone is going to have to carry the ball to spell Connor and by the looks of things Chryst will have three very talented options to choose from.
Being able to run the ball effectively is going to be a blessing for the Panthers, especially if they can do so to take some pressure off first-time starter Chad Voytik, although Chryst hasn’t officially named him as the starting quarterback as of yet.
Pitt has a particularly soft first seven games of the season and if they can establish a solid running game and don’t have to rely on Voytik to win games all of the time, it could get them off to a very solid start to the season.
Of course that all sounds good on paper, but Pitt will be only be able to run the ball effectively if the offensive line makes drastic improvements this season.
But that is another story for another day.
For a program that has been able to churn out some quality running backs over the course of the past decade plus, it look likes the Panthers will once again be in good hands as they should have plenty of options to lean on.
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