If James Conner rushes for 199 yards in Week 8, he’ll surpass the legendary Tony Dorsett for the most rushing yards through seven games (1,072 in 1976) in the history of Pittsburgh football.
It’s a different kind of rushing, though, that the running back continues to have his eye on.
During the Little Caesar’s Bowl after last season, as he was in the midst of a 229-yard rushing performance that netted him MVP honors, Conner spent limited time as a pass-rush “specialist” on defense against Bowling Green. He was even credited with drawing a key holding penalty late in the three-point win. Conner continued to practice at defensive end throughout training camp and even on into the 2014 regular season, even as he evolved into one of the top running backs in the country production-wise.
With a pivotal ACC game against Virginia Tech looming Thursday, though, Conner has gotten all defensive. Or, more specifically, he’s about to.
“I’m going to get that thing going this week on the defensive side of the ball,” the 6-2, 250-pound true sophomore said, adding, “I’ll be out there Thursday.”
Presumably, Conner, who was an all-state defensive lineman as a Pennsylvania high school junior in 2011, will be a rush end in spot situations and on a somewhat limited basis. Based on his burgeoning offensive pedigree at the collegiate level, it should be on a very, very, very limited basis.
Entering this week’s action, Conner is fifth in the country in rushing yards (874) and rushing yards per game (145.7). His nine rushing touchdowns are tied with three other players for seventh nationally. All of those totals are tops for players in the ACC as well.
The Panthers’ second-leading rusher this year is Chad Voytik with 169 yards, while Chris James is second with three rushing touchdowns.
Last year, Conner led Pitt with 799 yards and eight rushing touchdowns.