Our No. 1-graded RB from 2014, James Conner, is done for the year
The Pittsburgh Panthers received bad news Monday, as star running back James Conner is out for the season with a torn MCL in his knee.
This is obviously crushing news for the Panthers, in part because it was believed after Pitt’s win over Youngstown State Saturday that Conner’s injury wasn’t serious.
All of college football will now be robbed of one of the best running backs in the country. Conner ranked No. 1 in our running back grades last season, with a comfortable margin over second-place Ezekiel Elliott (the national championship MVP) and third-place Melvin Gordon (the No. 15 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft). He ranked 10th in our elusive rating statistic, which is a measure of how difficult a running back is to tackle.
It will be interesting to see whether Conner, a junior, opts to enter the 2016 NFL draft. While the 6-foot-2, 240-pound back obviously has posted impressive rushing numbers, he’s relatively unproven in the passing game, with just seven catches last year and barely adequate numbers in our pass-protection metric.
Freshman Qadree Ollison came on in relief of Conner Saturday, and finished with 207 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He is listed at 6-2, 230 pounds, so he’s a similarly sized back to Conner — but he is going to have a tough time matching Conner’s performance from 2014.