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July 20, 2015

James Conner

Darryl Render


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Darryl Render. Questions, please.

Q. Curious to know what type of championship mentality Pat Narduzzi has brought to you guys, especially on the defensive side of the ball? What do you notice differently about his coaching technique?
DARRYL RENDER: Coach Narduzzi wants everybody to play as fast as they can, highest tempo as they can. We want to fly around the ball, make a play. Not like it's going to be one person making a play, it's going to be everybody making plays this year.

Q. It's been in history for a long time Syracuse and Pitt. What can you say about that rivalry, knowing they're going to be there every year?
DARRYL RENDER: Well, I know playing in that rivalry, it's physical, to say the least. We know going into that week it's going to be a physical game. We look forward to that. But it's always a fun, exciting game.

Q. You played virtually every game in high school and in college. You have the season-ending injury at the end of the season. What has that done for your attitude during the off-season?
DARRYL RENDER: When it happened, it hurt me a lot being away from my team, missing that game, not being able to contribute in that game. It's done nothing but motivate me and preparing me for this next season so it won't happen again.

Q. The ACC had a number of the nation's top defenses. You were 33rd in the country, which is a great stat. At the same time there were games where you gave up more than 40 points or 50 points. How could you be so good statistically for most of the year and have those kinds of breakdowns? How do you overcome that?
DARRYL RENDER: Last year we left a lot of games and plays on the field that we should have made. So that's our big thing this summer in this off-season is working out, working on finishing, so we're able to finish in the fourth quarter and win those games we're supposed to win.

Q. You talked about finishing those games. What can you say about the other guys through the spring on the defensive line with you, some of their talents, some things maybe you've done differently through the spring?
DARRYL RENDER: I feel like everybody this off-season has been working really hard. We all have the same goal. We all look back at those games, it really hurts us. Leaves a big chip on our shoulder, we should have won those games. We don't want to say should have, we want to say we did win those games this year. Tyrique Jarrett had a big turnaround for him this off-season. Khaynin Mostley-Smith, bringing the motor, working hard, being the senior leader he's supposed to be this year. We're excited to see what everybody is going to bring.

Q. Scottie Graham, your uncle, what do you take away from him as a mentor? What have you done to lean on him for advice? Tell us about that relationship.
DARRYL RENDER: Me and my uncle have a real good relationship. He's always telling me to keep my head on straight and just play ball. Everything else is going to take care of itself, so...



THE MODERATOR: We're joined by James Conner on the podium. Questions for James.

Q. James, off of the success you had last year, how do you top that, come back and do better?
JAMES CONNER: Really don't pay attention to the numbers. With the hard work in the off-season that I put in, yards and touchdowns will come. I stay focused when my number is called in the huddle. Like I say, I know those yards will come.

Q. You were among the leaders in the country in first downs and time of possession, among the very top. Didn't always translate into touchdowns. Talk about the goal this year to put the ball in the end zone with more consistency.
JAMES CONNER: Yeah, for sure. It's good to have three, but we want six. This year when we get in the red zone, everybody got to dig deep, fight hard to get that ball in the end zone. Just got to stay consistent all season. Like I said, just finish strong in that red zone.

Q. James, you obviously had an extraordinary year. You physically paid a price to have that year. To see the team finish the way it did, not get the wins, how frustrating was it for you to keep paying the price and not see it show up in the win/loss column?
JAMES CONNER: A little bit frustrating. But it's a team game. Offense could have did more. So, yeah, like I said, we just got to finish those games strong. Too many games late in the fourth quarter we let it slip away from us. I'm going to continue to play hard and pay that price. This year I promise it will be different.

Q. Playing for Pitt, what does it mean to represent Pennsylvania football? You've had so much success, what are some things you're still trying to achieve?
JAMES CONNER: Well, first off, it means a lot staying in PA. Only two hours away from my hometown. My whole family can come to the games, watch me play. That's huge for me. I want some jewelry. I want to get to the ACC championship game and celebrate that with my teammates, leave there with a ring. All the accolades and individual trophies are nice, but I want to get that championship game. In high school never played for a state championship. I want to play for something big, play for something bigger than me.

Q. We all know what Paul likes to do on offense. How much have things changed under Coach Narduzzi?
JAMES CONNER: A little bit of a change. But Coach Narduzzi works a lot with the defense. The head man on the offense is Coach Chaney. Coming from Arkansas, has a great résumé. Had two backs that went over a thousand yards. He's bringing a different style to our offensive game this year. Still run heavy, run first. He believes in me. I think the run game will be pretty successful.

Q. Tony Dorsett. There are a lot of comparisons that are drawn. You have numbers that are Dorsett-like. How do you process that knowing the history that you have with the state personally, then what football is at Pitt?
JAMES CONNER: Man, it's huge. I'm just trying to carry that tradition. Tony Dorsett, Curtis Martin, Craig Heyward, the list goes on with the great backs that have been through there. I got a good relationship with Tony Dorsett. Last year I broke his touchdown record. He called me in the locker room after the game and told me congrats. I got to meet him in Fort Worth, Texas, face-to-face. It's huge to know he's proud of me, just to carry that tradition.

Q. So hardware is obviously a goal. Are there goals beyond just jewelry?
JAMES CONNER: Yeah. The culture of the program, winning more than just six games. It's getting old to us. My freshman year we went 7-6, 6-7. Those days are behind us. Like I said before, I don't believe anybody put in the amount of work we put in this summer.

Q. You are run first, of course. Pitt can throw the ball. You have good weapons. Talk about how the run and the pass are going to mesh together this year.
JAMES CONNER: Coming into games, we know teams are going to stack the box against us. They can't stack it too much against us because we have weapons. Tyler Boyd catching everything. Dontez Ford is going to be a big play-maker for us this year. Chad is dangerous on his feet as well as throwing. Teams can stack the box if they want, but they better make sure they have help for Tyler and all the other weapons on our offense.

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