Pitt's Bennett protects his turf amid RB depth
Almost from the day he arrived from Tulsa, Okla., Pitt senior running back Isaac Bennett has watched teammates walk into the locker room with one purpose:
To take his job.
He greets them all with a firm handshake and a wide, toothy smile before strapping on the shoulder pads and going out and working hard to protect his turf.
Malcolm Crockett, recruited with Bennett in 2011, left at the end of last season. Rushel Shell walked away in 2013.
This season, rising sophomores James Conner and Rachid Ibrahim again will take snaps and carries from Bennett, who remains a big part of Pitt's plans in the running game.
Conner earned the headlines last year, punctuating a freshman season by breaking Tony Dorsett's Pitt bowl rushing record with 229 yards against Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
But Bennett finished only two yards behind Conner for the overall team lead (799-797). Ibrahim contributed 136 rushing yards, with nine catches for an additional 88 yards and a touchdown.
“How the rotation goes, it doesn't matter,” Bennett said. “Just put me on the field, same as them.”Pitt enters this season with unaccustomed depth at running back, and more will arrive this summer when incoming freshmen Chris James, Qadree Ollison and Dennis Briggs enroll.
New running backs coach John Settle can't help but be pleased.
“Anytime you return three guys from the previous year and not much changes, you have an opportunity to get better,” he said. “Guys have an understanding of what you want from them.”
Settle, who played running back for six seasons in the NFL, is preaching improved footwork and hanging onto the football.
“Making sure those guys are picking their feet up through the hole and we are not tripping and falling,” said Settle, who came to Pitt after three years as running backs coach for the Carolina Panthers (2011-12) and Cleveland Browns last year. “Then, taking care of the football. I am a firm believer in the fact that ball security is job security. I tell them if you put the ball on the ground, you are not going to play.”
Even before Settle arrived, Bennett was making plans for self-improvement, hoping to become more of a force in the passing game. In three seasons, he has 34 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
“I've been working on my hands, catching the ball more, trying to be versatile,” he said.
Occasionally, he reflects on the first three years of his career that started in 2011 when he was recruited by former coach Todd Graham. Only eight other players remain from that class, but Bennett said the years have gone by quickly.
“I swear,” he said, “it feels like I was just graduating high school.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Castillo’s debut underscores challenges in Cuban market
- Rossi: At start, are Pens already finished?
- Roberto Clemente story hits Pittsburgh stage in performance
- Penn Hills transforms into NYC for Vin Diesel witch movie
- Classical music enthusiasts have a variety of choices
- Identical twins born at West Penn Hospital a rare medical marvel
- August Wilson conservator moves to avoid sheriff’s sale
- Art Review: ‘Tom McNickle: Time & Place’ at James Gallery
- Lawyer in Ford case asks judge to lift gag order
- Top-level jazz shows include Monheit, Branford Marsalis
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra takes different trips with Mason Bates, Valentina Lisitsa