Back in the spring, Pitt running back Isaac Bennett went down with a shoulder injury. Both he and James Conner missed a lot of time during the spring practices, but Bennett's injury also required surgery.
Bennett's status for fall camp at the time was up in the air. The running back has been practicing in camp, but has been limited. As Jim noted briefly on Monday, Bennett didn't seem to be doing as much at the beginning of practices.
Head coach Paul Chryst spoke about him on Wednesday and confirmed they are bringing him along slowly. "We certainly won’t fast-track him. We won’t bang Isaac hard, but we can still get him some work. He’s still getting better, but our plan is not to fast-track him."
There are several reasons why Pitt shouldn't rush him back and Chryst touched on those, too.
"He wouldn’t need, maybe, as many reps as some of the other guys, so it kind of plays out alright that way," Chryst stated. "We’ve got two freshman running backs. (Sophomores) Rachid (Ibrahim) and James (Conner) are young. They can use all the extra reps."
So much of the focus in the offseason has been about Conner's promising potential after a nice freshman year. But it's also easy to forget that he struggled at times last season. While Conner, for example, was limited against Miami (five carries for 22 yards), Bennett thrived (21 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown). And while Bennett had his share of down games as well, the point really is that Pitt is better off with both of them.
Pitt simply doesn't need him right now and the focus has to be to have him healthy for the regular season. The Panthers are deep in the backfield right now, but with James Conner spending at least some time on defense and Bennett not at 100% right now, things certainly have the potential to get interesting there - despite several talented freshman on the roster.