Fitch’s Hall looks for breakout year at Pitt

Associated Press


The reminders of the greatness that came before Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall are everywhere at Pitt.

They line the hallways at the team practice facility, where a pair of mannequins dressed as Heisman Trophy-winning running back Tony Dorsett stand at the top of the stairs. They’re next door at the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, where ACC all-time touchdown leader James Conner is finding his way as a rookie on a club with Super Bowl aspirations. They’re in the team record books, where names like Curtis Martin and LeSean McCoy seem to have whole sections devoted to their remarkable college careers.

It’s a lot to live up to. Then again, that’s kind of the point.

Ollison and Hall are at the forefront of the next wave, but they’re hardly newbies. Both filled in capably when Conner missed nearly the entire 2015 season while battling cancer and a knee injury. Hall ran for 257 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a freshman. Ollison was even better, sharing ACC Rookie of the Year honors after piling up 1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Yet both receded into the background last fall following Conner’s remarkable return following a battle with Hodgkin Lymphoma. As teammates, it was an easy transition. As competitors, not quite so much.

“It was harder to have to take a back seat but we had a successful season and I contributed in other ways,” said Hall, who touched the ball just 38 times in 2016, barely half his 2015 total. “We still got better. We still competed at practice.”

Just not in the games. Ollison ran for only 127 yards on 33 carries. His longest rush was just 19 yards. He appeared in 10 of Pitt’s 13 games and five times had one carry or fewer.

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