Now that Collins is a junior, there's still some uncertainty with his role. But it's not like it was when he was an incoming recruit and the Pittsburgh staff didn't know whether he would be a tailback, fullback or linebacker. Conredge Collins is firmly entrenched as Pitt's starting fullback for the second straight season, but his role with the offense is widespread.
The 6-foot, 225-pound Collins can be the lead blocker for Pitt's tailbacks, but he also can get the ball in short-yardage situations and from a one-back set. He also has been an important part of the passing game and can even split out, if necessary, to open things up a bit.
"Absolutely, there's a lot of ways we can use him,'' Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "He's a tough runner, but he also has good hands and should catch a lot of passes for us this season. He's a big part of what we're going to do on offense this season.''
The soft-spoken Collins doesn't mind, especially after the way things began at Pitt when he arrived from Monsignor Pace High School in Miami. He wanted to play tailback, and the Panthers recruited him to do that after he ran for 52 touchdowns and more than 4,300 yards there. But after a few games as a reserve tailback, he was moved to fullback and played in five late games.
Collins was the primary blocker for leading rusher LaRod Stephens-Howling last fall, as the tailback gained about 900 yards on the ground.
"Being the lead blocker is a tough thing to do,'' Collins said. "There's contact every other down, and it's not like you're just catching them. You have to deliver a blow. I like to take my shots, but it takes a toll on me, too.''
Collins offensive output has been minimal in two seasons with 140 yards rushing on 37 carries, numbers he put up on a weekly basis in high school.
But Collins also has 21 career catches for 201 yards (9.6 yards per catch) and three touchdowns, so Pitt has to find a way to get him the ball.
"The more he can develop his all-around game, the more opportunities he'll get to be back there as the single back,'' Pitt running backs coach David Walker said. "And he'll get his touches in our offense. But we know what he can do with the ball in his hands. We're concerned about when it's not, so we want him to be a more physical presence, a tougher blocker.''
Collins responded to the challenge by improving his conditioning and losing 15 pounds in the process to be able to put more force behind his blocks. This improvement will help his play as a college fullback and enhance his chances to play at the next level as well.
"I definitely believe I can play at the next level,'' Collins said. "I've always felt that way, and nobody can tell me different. I do what I have to for the team. I feel that's the reason they moved me. It's not about me, but it's all about the team. If this is what they need me to do for us to win, I'm all for it."
Collins main backup is redshirt sophomore Shane Brooks, while freshman Henry Hynoski is an amazing prospect who likely will be redshirted this year.
"We have a lot of good fullbacks,'' Collins said. "Shane, he's a big guy who was a tailback also, so he knows what I'm going through. And Hyno, he played in a lot of one-back in high school, so he should be ready to play quickly. When you add in our tailbacks, that gives us a lot of options in the backfield here.''
And Collins will be among the first available.
DeMarcus Van Dyke was the team's fastest freshman this year and he spent some time working with the…