Keep An Eye Out for this Pitt Panther Backup on Thursday Night

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Editor's Note: The depth chart was released today after this writing without Daniel Carter listed as the 4th running back.  He instead will be considered a fullback and is not listed on the official depth chart.  However, he's still going to get a lot of snaps at fullback, and is still worth keeping an eye on.  Enjoy and H2P!

Currently, redshirt junior running back, Daniel Carter, sits at 4th on the Pitt Panthers' depth chart.  He is listed behind Israel Abanikanda, Rodney Hammond Jr., and Vincent Davis.  However, I don't think this is where Carter will remain for very long.

Carter hasn't played much so far since his career started with the Panthers in 2019.  He played just four games as a true freshman in 2019, preserving his redshirt.  In 2020, Carter played in 9 games, but only received 14 carries.  However, he did score a touchdown against Austin Peay from the two yard line.  

In 2021 Carter ran for 29 yards on eight attempts and scored a touchdown against Massachusetts.  He also added a receiving touchdown against Georgia Tech.  Certainly not a long resume to analyze for Carter so far.

However, I believe this season will be different for Daniel Carter, and a lot of it has to do with new offensive coordinator, Frank Cignetti.  Cignetti has a long career in football, dating back to his time as a graduate assistant for Pitt in 1989.  Since then, he's bounced around both college football and the NFL.  His most recent tenure at Pitt was serving under Dave Wannstedt from from 2009-10.  Cignetti's most recent position was the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach at Boston College.

One thing Cignetti has demonstrated over his career is that he likes to pass and he likes pass-blocking running backs. When he was with Pitt in 2009, Bill Stull ranked among the nation's most efficient passers, throwing for more than 2,600 yards and 21 touchdowns.  Pitt's roster that season also included both a 1,000-yard receiver in Jon Baldwin and a 1,700-yard rusher in Dion Lewis.  

So with that being said, and with Dion Lewis as a perfect example, Cignetti loves passing down running backs who can pass block.  Those of us that remember the 2009 season know that most of Baldwin's yards came on deep balls downfield.  Those types of plays don't develop without good pass blocking that gives the receivers time to get downfield.  This will be greatly aided by the entire starting Pitt offensive line returning from last season, but also the big and bulky Carter who is known as the best pass blocker among the running backs room.

Also, while Abanikanda is large enough to score from down and goal himself at 215 pounds, he could get spelled for the much larger Carter near the goal line.  Carter then would be available for short yardage receiving touchdowns as well, while still presenting the threat to run to an opposing defense.  With Abanikanda, Hammond Jr., and Davis all having a similar skill set known more for quickness rather than their blocking ability, Cignetti will most likely turn to Carter on passing downs.  

I don't expect Carter to pass Abanikanda on the depth chart by any means, nor do I believe Carter will receive more carries than Hammond on the season.  However, I do expect Carter to play a much larger role this season and potentially be on the field for the 2nd most snaps out of any of the Pitt running backs.   His snap count will be greatly boosted by Cignetti's preference of pass blocking running backs on passing downs.  So keep an eye out for Carter and get used to seeing him on the field for the Pitt Panther offense.