Last season, Pitt running back James Conner was the ACC Offensive Player of the Year. So when discussing candidates for the award this year, he's naturally at the top of the list.
ESPN recently named five candidates for the award and it was no surprise that Conner was included:
As a freshman, Conner earned acclaim for his throwback style. Not only did the 6-foot-2, 250-pounder look like the running backs from eras prior, but he played both ways. He doubled as a defensive end, and he sealed the win in the 2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl with his dominant play on both sides. He followed that up with a sophomore season in which he only played offense, and amassed 1,765 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. As a junior, Conner has an opportunity to improve on his numbers from a year ago, as seasoned quarterback Chad Voytik should present more of an aerial threat to complement the ground attack.
Conner is definitely one of the most talented players in the conference and should again be one of the nation's top backs. But he's certainly no lock to win the award for a second consecutive year. Not only does he face stiff competition, but defenses will be gearing up to stop him. The Panthers' passing game should also be improved with quarterback Chad Voytik having a year of experience under his belt.
And speaking of that passing game, wide receiver Tyler Boyd didn't make the cut. It's hard to complain about that when you look at the list of other candidates. Plus, he wasn't passed up by another receiver as a total of two running backs (Conner and Florida State's Dalvin Cook) and three quarterbacks (Florida State's Everett Golson, Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas, and Clemson's Deshaun Watson) comprised the list.