Whether in the backfield or acting as a receiver, the Yellow Jackets know the power of the athlete they’re facing.
“I’ve got him in several different roles,” cornerbacks coach Joe Speed said. “We’re very familiar with him from two years ago. He’s a talented athlete, power, speed, finesse, soft hands. He’s the real deal. We definitely have to have an awareness of where he is when he’s on the field.”
The Panthers are coming off a 43-27 win over Marshall on Saturday where they racked up 532 offensive yards, Conner was responsible for 34 rushing yards and one touchdown.
In practice this week, Tech’s scout team alternated three of four players to simulate Conner’s skill set which has averaged 110 all-purpose yards and just over one touchdown per game. As a team in 2016, Pitt averages 250 rushing yards per game.
“That’s the thing with (Pitts’) run game, they’ve got the inside thing with Connor and then they have the outside game with the speed sweep,” Roof said. “It’ll be a big challenge for a defense to try and limit that.”
Tech has allowed an average of 342 offensive yards per game so far this season.
Limiting Pitts’ offensive production on Saturday is more complicated than stopping Conner alone. Sophomore running back Quadree Henderson, like Conner, is one of the Panthers’ top receivers with 158 receiving yards and one touchdown this season. Henderson is also close behind Conner in rushing totals this season with 217 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, including a 50-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma State.
“You have to have a plan for both (Conner and Henderson) because if you’re going to try to gang up on one, they’re going to exploit the other way,” coach Paul Johnson said. “So you got to be sound on your defensive approach, limit the big plays and hopefully try to create some negative plays.”