April 19, 2007

Spring wrap-up: Who will carry the ball?

Let's go over this one more time:

Dave Wannstedt will not rest until his Pitt football team has an established, effective running game. In 2006 the Panthers averaged 123 yards per game on the ground, 78th best in the nation; save for a few exceptions against marginal competition, the Pitt running game did not qualify as established or effective.

Of course, there are always a lot of factors that affect a team's running game: the offensive line, the opposing defenses, the conditions of the games, and the situations in each game all play a role in determining how established and effective a team's running game will be.

That being said, the running backs remain the first and foremost factor in a team's rushing attack. Pitt's spring practice was dominated by four running backs: two tailbacks, one fullback, and one "ultra-back," to use Wannstedt's term.

Here's a breakdown of the Pitt running backs, as they performed in spring camp 2007:

LaRod Stephens-Howling
Junior

Spring scrimmage stats: 37 carries, 162 yards, 1 touchdown; 3 receptions, 24 yards

LaRod entered spring camp as the incumbent starter, having led Pitt with 893 yards and 9 touchdowns on 178 carries in 2006. LaRod led the charge for the Panthers when the team rushed for 236 and 261 yards against Syracuse and Central Florida, respectively. But the defenses for those teams were suspect, to say the least, and when Pitt needed rushing yards the most (against, say, Connecticut), they were hard to come by.

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