Paul Chryst put it bluntly when asked about Conner playing on defense, when he indicated that the plan is to use him on both sides of the ball. Conner playing both ways was definitely the hot topic on the first day of Fall camp as it was the point for many of the questions in almost all of the interviews.
James Conner was used primarily as the first running back for all of the drills and live situations, but did get a few reps at defensive end during the drill portion of practice. Right now the question seems to be how much will Conner be used in defensive packages, and that still remains to be seen. One thing is certain, however: it is obvious that he will get some time as an End in 2014.
The defensive ends' coach, John Palermo, was asked a load of questions about the possibility of Conner playing both ways, and he did not beat around the bush by saying, "We do have expectations of him playing some defensive end for us in pass rush situations."
Palermo is not shy in saying what he thinks of Conner as a player on that side of the ball overall as he went on to say, "There was a moment where I said I wanted him in my group period - all the time, but that's not going to happen. So I'll take what I can get." It is clear the coaching staff has a clear intention to use Conner both ways, and obviously that certain coaches want him to play defense as much as possible.
Palermo reaffirmed that. "The more they give James to me, the more I'll take him, it's probably going to be a matter of how those other tailbacks perform," he added. James Conner was asked about how he expects the play breakdown to go, and he simply replied "whatever coach wants me to do, I'll do it."
Conner displayed very good pass rushing abilities in the bowl game and looked very natural at the position. Pitt does have some good running backs, but it should not be overlooked Conner is the best one of the bunch. While using Conner in pass rushing situations makes sense, he does have the most talent carrying the ball. It is not an easy decision how to use him, but he does make for one intriguing (and lengthy) story line for this upcoming season.