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Pitt spring notebook: Coaches pleased with running backs, linebackers

April 1, 2018 GMT

Working during spring practice with a position group of proven veterans and intriguing youngsters, Pitt running backs coach Andre Powell likes his options in devising the depth chart.

“I have a good handle on what we’ve got,” Powell said Tuesday from Pitt’s South Side facility after the fifth practice of the Panthers’ spring. “We have got two veteran running backs who can play winning football and can do a lot of things. We’ve got some young guys who we have got to develop, and we’ve got a talented guy coming in.

“So it will all sort out. We will get a good plan this summer in how we get guys ready and what roles we put guys in, and we will go forward and execute the plan in training camp.”

Seniors Darrin Hall (1,045 career rushing yards) and Qadree Ollison (1,646) are the known commodities. Among the younger running backs on the roster at sophomore A.J. Davis and redshirt freshman Todd Sibley Jr., with four-star recruit Mychale Salahuddin joining the team in the summer.

Last season, Davis edged Sibley for a spot on the depth chart and played nine game while Sibley redshirted. But Davis got just 16 carries. Powell said Davis got “tight,” and the coaches were nervous about putting him in games.

And this spring, Sibley is “pushing” Davis.

“I am not sure Sibley is not ahead of (Davis),” Powell said. “Sibley is running hard, he’s running low, he’s got low center of gravity, so we will see the way it sorts out. Right now Sibley is playing better than (Davis) is.”

Making ‘Duzz’ say ‘Whoa’

Asked a more specific question about Pitt’s linebackers group, coach Pat Narduzzi gave an unsolicited and highly positive assessment of the group in general.

“If you had to say, ‘Give me a position where I would say ‘whoa’, our linebacker corps is pretty good,” Narduzzi said.

Narduzzi said he was impressed with the linebackers during Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage at Heinz Field. He noted veteran returning starters Elijah Zeise and Saleem Brightwell can play each other’s spots and also singled out a couple of redshirt freshmen.

″(Cam) Bright has shown the ability to pick things up. Kyle Nunn — a guy you have never heard of — is just doing some really nice things and being coached and doing the little things right,” Narduzzi said. “Sometimes young guys don’t do things right. (Junior) Anthony McKee has finally arrived; we have been waiting for a couple of years.

“So there are a lot of good things coming from our linebackers right now. We just have to sustain that and keep it going.”

From ‘Lit’ to ‘Lights’

This being the age of social media, and this being recruiting, of course Pitt’s coaching staff devised a new hashtag to lure and rally an incoming class of 2019: ”#TurnOnTheL19hts.”

Narduzzi on Monday posted to his Twitter account a logo of the slogan. And while Narduzzi might be eager to use the hashtag/slogan when speaking with recruits, he wasn’t one for expounding on it to reporters when asked about it.

“It’s time to turn them (‘the lights’) on,” he said. “That’s the new (hashtag).”

The hashtag replaces the Class of 2018′s ”#L1TS8URGH.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.