Pitt’s running back plans call for on-the-job training
Running backs coach Andre Powell has perhaps the toughest but most important job on Pitt’s staff.
He must replace 1,000-yard rushers Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall.
The price to pay for such production a year later is a young group of running backs with little or no experience.
“I went from having probably the most mature group I’ve ever had to having the least experienced group I ever had,” Powell said.
He said the running backs in his room total 72 career game snaps.
Yet there are highly regarded players in need of on-the-job training.
“I think coming out of spring, it was really (junior) A.J. Davis (as the leader), and (sophomore Todd) Sibley was right on his tail,” coach Pat Narduzzi said.
“Right now, it’s that same thing, but (redshirt freshman) Mychale Salahuddin is healthy right now (after recovering from a knee injury). He’ll be full-go out there. We’ll still limit him and be careful that we don’t overdo it because we don’t want to push him too fast, but he can do anything we want him to do.
“Then, we’re going to find out what (freshmen) Vincent Davis and Daniel Carter and (junior) Kyle Vreen, all those guys, have at that position, as well.”
Over the summer, coaches moved sophomore V’Lique Carter to wide receiver after he played running back in the spring.
“With some of those little motions we do, we’ll be able to get the ball in his hands somehow,” Narduzzi said. “But he’s really electric out in space. If we need him (at running back), he’s got enough reps in spring ball that we could possibly throw him in, but he’s a receiver right now.”
Pitt needs a holder
Lost from the roster is walk-on holder and backup kicker Jake Scarton, who is looking to transfer.
Scarton’s name was entered in the NCAA transfer portal after the season, but he participated in Pitt’s spring drills. Narduzzi said he is not surprised Scarton is transferring.
“You live and learn, and we wish Jake luck wherever he lands,” he said. “You kind of see the writing sometimes. But not surprised at all.
“I mean, that guy is a talented kicker who can go play somewhere else. I said, ‘You need to go. It’ll be good for you, if someone can give you a scholarship.’ ”
Scarton’s brother Sam has joined the team as a walk-on kicker and has a talented leg, Narduzzi said.
“(His teammates) are looking like, ‘Holy, cow. He might be the next-best kicker (after incumbent Alex Kessman),’ ” Narduzzi said.
But he was not specific on his plans for a new holder.
“I don’t even want to get into it, but we’ve got plenty,” he said.
“Obviously we’re going to work our quarterback position. I think it’s always great when you’ve got a quarterback back there (holding). You might even see Kenny Pickett doing it.
“But we’re going to work our quarterbacks and receivers, guys that catch the ball every day.”
Narduzzi said it’s not his decision, anyway.
“The guy who’s got to pick that holder is Kessman,” he said. “It’s who he feels comfortable with. I want that guy walking out every snap and saying, ‘That’s my guy.’ ”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .