The NFL Combine, a holiday for draftniks like me, started Tuesday in Indianapolis, and Pitt is represented by six players — more than the school has sent there in anyone’s memory.
Only 14 schools nationwide (five from the ACC) are sending more than six, led by Michigan’s 14. National champion Clemson leads the ACC with nine.
Among schools that didn’t finish in the AP Top 25, Pitt is sending the third-most, behind Texas A&M and North Carolina. The SEC leads all conferences with 66. The ACC is second with 60.
There’s been some early speculation that James Conner won’t be a drafted especially early. (Running backs have been devalued overall by the NFL in recent years.)
In Conner’s case, much will depend on how well he runs the 40-yard dash at Indy — running backs go Friday — but the interview portion of the week-long Combine should increase Conner’s draft stock. He’s well-spoken, respectful and smart — intangibles that matter to NFL executives.
He’s also unafraid of hard work, a character trait that might get Conner onto the field early in his career
The NFL is notorious for asking silly questions that are supposed to help reveal a player’s psychological makeup. Former Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman, exposed to some of those questions at the Senior Bowl, said he was asked if preferred dogs or cats.
“Dogs all the way,” Peterman said.
By the way, there will be 13 Pitt players working out for NFL scouts at the school’s annual Pro Day March 22. The list: Conner, Peterman, Adam Bisnowaty, Chris Blewitt, Bam Bradley, Matt Galambos, Tyrique Jarrett, Dorian Johnson, Ryan Lewis, Scott Orndoff, Ejuan Price, Shakir Soto and Terrish Webb. Conner, Bisnowaty, Johnson, Orndoff, Peterman and Price are at the Combine.
Perhaps it’s only me, but it’s interesting that seven of the 13 played in the WPIAL or City League.
The first of 15 spring drills at Pitt will be March 16 and the annual spring game at Heinz Field is April 15.