MORE REPS FOR CONNER
Despite Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett having game experience, based on the rotation this week, we may see James Conner on the field much sooner than expected.
Conner was a productive two-way player at Erie (PA) McDowell in his high school career; 1,680 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground, and 12 sacks on defense as a senior.
Conner earned his Pitt offer in June 2012 at the first prospect camp of the summer, working out as a defensive end. He committed to the Panthers shortly after picking up that offer. However, as his senior year progressed, the Pitt coaching staff quickly decided to move him to running back.
“I love the way he’s approaching everything," head coach Paul Chryst said of Conner. "I thought he did some good things. The more he understands what’s going on in front of him, the more that will help. He’s certainly earned the right to get more reps.”
Bennett was held from Saturday's practice as a precaution, opening the way for Conner to take a significant number of reps, if not the most of the three running backs that day.
It's still another three weeks before the opener with Florida State, Conner has been one of the big stories this camp. A lot of the talk of freshmen playing this year has been surrounded by four-star receiver Tyler Boyd and four-star lineman Dorian Johnson--another two players in good position to crack the depth chart. Initially, it was thought that Conner would simply add depth to the running back spot. After a week, he is in contention for much more than just a spot on the depth chart.
Despite the number of times he's gotten the ball this week, Conner humbly approaches it.
“Experience, it is a totally different game in college," Conner said. "Getting to be patient, in high school we didn’t pay attention to details; we would just run. But now we’re in the film room every day. It’s the experience.”
PRESSURE ON BLEWITT?
Freshman kicker Chris Blewitt is also getting his shot to be Pitt's kicker for field goals and extra points, possibly also kickoffs.
To simulate game pressure on him, Chryst brings the entire defensive corps to stand on the field and yell, jeer--anything to simulate a hostile crowd--at Blewitt while he's attempting kicks.
On Wednesday, Blewitt connected from 30, 35, 40 and 47 yards. On Thursday, indoors, Blewitt went 4-6 on field goal attempts, including a long field goal of 47 yards. Friday, he connected with a 49-yarder.
He said he had a career-long of 51 yards in high school. Blewitt talked about how he handles those high pressure type of situations, whether it be in practice, or in a game.
COHESION ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Pitt's offensive line will have a different look to it this year. With the losses of Ryan Turnley and Chris Jacobson to graduation, Cory King and Matt Rotheram are back. However, both of those players are moving to new positions--King one step to the left at guard, Rotheram the same on the right side.
“The second half of last year with tackle, I really started to feel comfortable," King said. "Then it was a little bit of a learning curve coming into spring ball with it, but I feel like guard is my more natural position.”
Redshirt freshman Adam Bisnowaty is the guy the beat out at left tackle, while Gabe Roberts and Artie Rowell will battle it out at center. T.J. Clemmings, a converted defensive end, is the guy to beat out at right tackle.
“We’re giving each other great competition," Roberts said. "We’re both really going after each other. When Coach [Jim] Hueber sees me mess up, he pulls me out. When he sees Artie mess up, he’s pulling him out and putting me in. We’re both really competing for the spot, so we’re really putting pressure on each other which is nice.”
Techinically, it is five new starters on the offensive line. However, since this group has worked together virtually every day in the spring, and to this point of training camp.
Despite the five spots being occupied by five different players from a year ago, this group is developing a sense of cohesion.