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Panthers 2021 season opener countdown: 30 days to go

We’re counting down the days until the Panthers kick off the 2021 season.

Carolina Panthers Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

We’re 30 days away from the Carolina Panthers 2021 season opener, so today’s countdown piece is devoted to No. 30 on the roster — running back Chuba Hubbard.

Will Hubbard turn into an every down, 1,000 plus yards per season back? It sure seems like he has all the physical tools.

What remains to be seen will be how Hubbard integrates himself into Matt Rhule’s system and how he acclimates to the talent shift in defenses. The Big 12 isn’t exactly known for its defensive stalemates, while the defensive talent in the NFC South is no joke.

The Edmonton, Alberta native Hubbard comes to the Panthers by way of Oklahoma State, where he rushed for over 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns in his spectacular 2019 sophomore season. I won’t even go into the obscene numbers he piled up against Canadian high school defenses, who I would imagine were completely helpless.

Strangely, the magic didn’t continue after that monster sophomore year in Stillwater.

The offseason prior to 2020 was notable, as Hubbard threatened to cut ties with the school in reaction to a photo of head coach Mike Gundy circulating social media. Gundy then apologized, Hubbard tweeted remorse and the pair appeared in a video together. All was well again in Stillwater, or so it seemed.

Hubbard rushed for just 625 yards over seven games, before opting out of the rest of the season in anticipation of the 2020 draft. Hubbard’s production dropped to 4.7 yards per carry from over 6.0 during his first two season. His five touchdowns were more than 50 percent less per game than the previous season.

Who knows why Hubbard’s production fell so drastically. Perhaps he took his foot off the gas knowing he’d be drafted, or perhaps things just didn’t go as planned for the Cowboys’ offense.

But how will he do in Carolina?

The thought of Christian McCaffrey as your lead back with a former 2,000-yard college rusher backing him up is pretty exciting. The offense should be improved this season with the addition of several pieces, and that should bode well for both rushers.

However, a lot of that will depend on the Panthers offensive line, which isn’t among the NFL’s strongest.

We should get our first look at Carolina’s new running back this Sunday afternoon when the Indianapolis Colts visit the Panthers for their first preseason game.