Pitt receiver Boyd continues to grow on and off the field |

Pitt receiver Boyd continues to grow on and off the field

Jerry DiPaola
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Tyler Boyd pulls in a touchdown pass against Delaware during a game in September.

Tyler Boyd did it again the other day.

He reached beyond the perceived limits of his athleticism and made a catch that looked impossible.

It was only practice, but Pitt coach Paul Chryst still turned to the guy standing next to him and said, “Wow.”Chryst was far from awe-struck. With Boyd, such catches — whether they count in the game or are just something he does in practice because he can — are nearly routine.

“When you are around him a lot,” Chryst said, “there are times you say, ‘Wow,’ but you’ve seen him do it. You know it’s in him. You’re not surprised that way.”

Pitt ventures into Sun Life Stadium on Saturday night to play Miami, needing a victory to earn a bowl bid. The Panthers’ hopes of slugging it out with the talented Hurricanes offense — big play for big play — rest squarely on Boyd’s shoulders.

Not a bad place for them to be.

Boyd is in the midst of an astounding stretch, averaging seven receptions and 140.8 yards per game in the past four. He surpassed 1,000 yards (1,077) for the second consecutive season — the first ACC player to do so in his freshman and sophomore years — and he joins Larry Fitzgerald as the only Pitt player to do it.

Chryst said Boyd is improving on and off the field by setting an example.

“The way he is practicing, what he is doing off the field, I think he is showing growth,” the coach said.

Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph noted that Pitt has shifted from a team that relied on quarterback Tom Savage’s strong arm a year ago to one that now leans on the run game with James Conner.

“Last year, we leaned more heavily toward making plays in the passing game,” Rudolph said. “You had to if you were going to move the ball consistently.”

This year, Conner’s 1,600 yards fuel the offense. Thus, Boyd’s opportunities are limited.

Yet, he has 64 receptions, including seven touchdowns, in 11 games while sharing the offensive load with Conner. That’s only four fewer than last year at this time when the running game was less productive and Pitt needed to pass.

“Overall, he has taken advantage of his opportunities more this year,” Rudolph said. “He has taken a huge step in his play and his approach.”

And it’s happening at the most opportune time.Pitt’s offense must work even harder while the defense allows games to become 56-28, 51-48 and 40-35 shootouts — all losses in the past month. Against Miami, a team loaded with playmakers on offense, Pitt will need to counter-attack with Boyd and Conner.

Chryst is careful not to shortchange his opponent.

“The talk about Miami, especially when you play them this late in the year, it’s earned,” he said. “I would never say some of the guys in Miami aren’t worth talking about. They’re notable.”

He adds, however, with more than a little pride: “I do feel good with the guys we’ve got, as well. We think we have a couple playmakers in our own right.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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