Sports Magazine

Pitt : James Conner Chasing NCAA Rushing Title in Final Month of Season

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
"Nov. 11, 2014
Eighteen months ago, James Conner was a lightly recruited defensive end prospect anticipating his graduation from McDowell High School in Erie, Pa.
Fast forward to November 2014 and Conner is now one of the most prolific running backs in all of college football.
Standing a chiseled 6-2 and 250 pounds, Conner still resembles a defensive lineman. Only he uses his powerful frame to run past--and over--would-be tacklers.
To the distress of opposing defenses, he has done that with incredible regularity. Entering the 10th game of the season, Conner has rumbled for 1,342 rushing yards, the third highest total in the country. His 17 rushing touchdowns are the second most among "Power 5" conference players.
"He beats up a lot of people," Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said after Conner bulled through the Blue Devils for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
But Conner is not just a bowling ball in shoulder pads. He may be the most physical runner in the country, but he combines that strength with impressive athleticism.
Wrote Tom Fornelli of "While some running backs rely on their speed and vision to get yards, what stands out about Conner is that he not only has speed and vision, but he's huge. And he likes contact."
Averaging nearly 150 yards per game, he is chasing the NCAA rushing title. The immortal Tony Dorsett is the only Pitt player to lead the nation in rushing, achieving that feat in 1976, the year he won the Heisman Trophy.
In the Atlantic Coast Conference, a league not short on exceptional skill players, Conner has emerged as a favorite for ACC Offensive Player of the Year. He paces the league in four categories: rushing yards, rushing yards per game, rushing touchdowns and overall scoring (11.3 ppg.).
Conner has been named the ACC Offensive Back of the Week three times this season, the most of any player in the league. He needs only 116 yards to become the most prolific sophomore rusher in ACC history. (Boston College's Montel Harris currently holds the league sophomore rushing record with 1,457 in 2009.)
He is also poised to entrench himself on the list of great running backs at Pitt.
Conner's 1,342 rushing yards through the season's opening nine games are the most by a Pitt player not named Dorsett. While Conner trails "T.D.," he is still outpacing such former Pitt standouts as LeSean McCoy, Curtis Martin, Dion Lewis and Craig Heyward.
McCoy, who now owns status as one of the NFL's elite runners, holds the Pitt sophomore rushing record with 1,488 yards (in 2008). Conner needs just 147 in the final three regular-season games to eclipse that mark.
"LeSean McCoy, and all the greats that played here, I feel honored to go to the same university they went to and I'm just trying to follow in their footsteps."

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