I honestly don’t know, and don’t think anyone will know until Pitt’s offense takes the field on Monday Night.
Here’s Coach Paul Chryst’s comments on Isaac Bennett.
“He did some stuff yesterday in practice. He obviously missed quite a bit of time, so it’s too early to tell if he’ll be ready. But he was able to go through some things yesterday. We’ll see how he comes back today.”
Now, James Conner.
“He practiced some yesterday, so we’ll see where he’s at during practice today.”
These are the closed practices, so what that means is unknown. They could have just stretched with the team and done light jogging on the side. Or they could have been in there doing contact drills.
The point is, he essentially said the same thing for both. And said the same nothing about both.
Obviously this is by design. Coach Chryst showed last year that he falls into the category of coaches that feels revealing injury status of players is disclosing key information to an opponent.
Bennett hurt his knee well over two weeks ago, and no one even knows the nature of the injury. Only that he was wearing a brace around it.
Conner hurt his shoulder during practice. He tweeted later that it was fine, but who really knows.
So what now?
After Bennett and Crockett, Pitt has redshirt sophomore Malcolm Crockett, freshman Rachid Ibrahim and redshirt senior Desmond Brown, a former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship this past spring.
Of that group, only Crockett has recorded a rushing attempt in a college game. Last season he carried the ball 12 times for 50 yards; seven of those carries came in Pitt’s win over Gardner-Webb, and the other five came in the Panthers’ loss to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Crockett’s biggest concern is that he has not shown to be sure-handed.
The problem, as I have repeated, is that we don’t actually know. Conner and even Bennett may be fine. It may be extra caution and a little gamesmanship. Or they could both be still too banged up, but Chryst isn’t going to say.
All that is left is speculation and worry at the running back.