Earlier this year, Pat Narduzzi and Pitt's coaching staff have discussed wanting to get James Conner on the field for more passing downs. Conner himself has discussed that as well and this week at ACC Media Days, Narduzzi talked more about that.
Narduzzi even seemed to indirectly question the previous head coaching staff not keeping Conner out there (at least the end of the quote reads that way):
"He can't just be a guy that you put in a game when it's going to be a run," Narduzzi said. "As a defensive guy, I'll know when James is in the game it's a run and when he's not it's a pass. We have to get him the ball on third down -- whether it be a draw or a pass out of the backfield. He's got great hands. In the spring we did it, and it was like, 'Why was this guy not in on third downs?' So that was an emphasis in the spring and will continue to be an emphasis."
I've always been a fan of trying to utilize Rachid Ibrahim and his speed out there on passing plays, but really, I just want Pitt to make throwing to running backs more of an option on 3rd downs, regardless of the back in there. I do think it has to be situational as to who gets the nod, but I'm all for Conner being a weapon on 3rd down. Fact is that he's already difficult to stop taking a handoff in the backfield. If you get him the ball in open space, in theory, he should be just as tough to stop if not more so.
Again, I think it's going to depend on the situation. If you get eight defenders in the box and space is tight, I might think about going to Ibrahim since his speed is an asset. But I fully agree with Narduzzi here that you have to make it harder on defenses to know what's coming. And if that means utilizing Conner on 3rd downs as a decoy or as a receiver to keep them honest, that makes a lot of sense.