Could McDowell graduate James Conner start his first career game with the Pitt football team?
Coaches have not announced a starting running back for the Sept. 2 opener against Florida State, but the true freshman noted Tuesday that he has been getting steady reps with the first team.
Is he the No. 1 back?
“That’s my mentality,” he said in a post-practice interview today.
Conner, who stands 6 feet 2 inches, is listed on the Pitt roster at 230 pounds. He said today that he started training camp at about 250 pounds but has lost 10 to 15 pounds during practice.
“I feel faster,” he said. “Watching film from the first couple days of practice, I was like, ‘Man, I look slow out there.’ … That’s mainly why I’m losing this weight.”
He recently rushed nine times for 72 yards to lead Pitt in a scrimmage. Conner said he and freshman running back Rachid Ibraham have developed a nickname for themselves because Conner is a power back and Ibraham is a quick gamebreaker.
“We call ourselves Thunder and Lightning,” he said.
Conner added that he is building chemistry with Tom Savage, who was named the starting quarterback last week.
“Tom’s a cool guy in the locker room and on the field,” Conner said. ”I work first team so our reps and our timing is getting down.”
Here’s a Pitt video of Conner running a play at practice.
Conner rushed for 1,680 yards and 21 touchdowns with McDowell in 2012. He has received steady practice time since the opening day of camp, but his reps increased after an injury to junior Isaac Bennett, the Panthers’ leading returning rusher.
– Jeff Kirik, sports editor