They say that a jack of all trades is a master of none, but axioms like that have little real value and are best ignored, particularly when you have the kind of talent that Pittsburgh Panthers athlete James Connor possesses. You see, Connor, who led the Panthers in rushing last season, has the kind of athleticism that would allow him to thrive at defensive end as well.
Connor is preparing to work at both positions during training camp, with the blessing of head coach Paul Chryst, who has to be wondering how his defensive line is going to replace all-American and first-round draft pick Aaron Donald. Connor discussed the likelihood of playing both sides of the ball this season with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“I’ve been playing running back since I was knee high,” Conner said. “That’s always my first love. (But) I see the (NFL) draft and I see the success Aaron (Donald) had on defense. It would be great to follow up on somebody like that.”
The move should benefit both Connor and the Panthers as a team. For Pittsburgh, Connor may actually be of more help on the defensive line, where they have to replace three starters, including Donald. The Panthers will want to continue to use him as a running back, but they also have more talent there with Isaac Bennett returning.
For Connor, being able to play multiple positions could improve his chances of eventually being drafted. If nothing else, Connor will have a chance to figure out which position he performs best in. And if Connor can excel in both positions, NFL teams will have to take two looks at him.
If Connor was going into his senior year, it might have been advisable for him to focus on one position, but he is only a sophomore, so if he finds he needs to focus on one position, he will be able to do that next year. He already demonstrated his ability as a running back as a freshman last season; he has plenty of time to figure the rest out.