Rossi: Pitt hoping for wow factor from Voytik
After spending last fall catching almost everything Chad Voytik threw his way, Pitt’s latest outstanding wide receiver threw something back at his quarterback Tuesday.
“It’s going to look like a shock — like, ‘Wow!’ ” Tyler Boyd said as Panthers’ players posed for pictures and fielded questions during Media Day at the football program’s South Side headquarters.
And how will Voytik deliver the wow?
Citing evidence from countless practices, Boyd predicted a big bump on Voytik’s completion rate. As part of “some good things in store” under new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, running back James Conner hinted Voytik’s legs could require some extra time in the ice bath.
Last season, Voytik hit on 61.1 percent of his passes, and he can connect much better. He also ran the ball 108 times, and he shouldn’t run much more.
But before expectations for Voytik go to a place beyond reason …
Actually, that already has happened. Conner said he “would not be surprised if Chad was the ACC Player of the Year,” which seemed over the top unless you consider that Boyd referred to him as “our other All-American.”
New coach Pat Narduzzi is fortunate the most levelheaded of his most important offensive players is the one who touches the ball every offensive snap. And for Year 1 of the Narduzzi era to lay a foundation for future greatness, Voytik will need to transfer his reason into reads.
Narduzzi’s big-splash hire of Chaney vaulted Voytik into a brave new world from his previous tutelage under Paul Chryst. Chaney intentionally has kept his quarterback comfortable by sticking with the “basic philosophy, some concepts and just some little things,” Voytik said.
“But the challenge is definitely that I’ve had to expand my knowledge,” Voytik said.
“(Chaney) expects the quarterback to know protections, running schemes, when to kill plays, when to check out. It’s a lot more responsibility than I had before. I like that, but it’s really different.”
Different is perhaps a daring choice from Chaney given his boss’ attempt to establish an encouraging direction for the football program at our city’s university. For too long, Pitt football hasn’t mattered enough in sports-crazed Pittsburgh. There may be many factors that have prevented the Panthers from turning Heinz Field into a showplace on Saturdays, but topping that list is Pitt having failed to satisfy Pittsburghers’ preference for winners.
So daring is the only option for Chaney, because Pittsburghers can’t get no satisfaction from these Panthers if Voytik doesn’t make the most of his skills.
And one of his skills, Conner said, is his commanding presence — during film sessions, around the weight room, and in the huddle.
“He leads by example,” Conner said. “I hear him calling out plays, and he has the voice and tone you want from a quarterback.”
“I’ve been there with him in practices, when he’s making the throws, when he’s making the adjustments,” Boyd said.
“It’s there with Chad. I’ve seen it.”
We haven’t, at least not yet.
When we do, we might also see a Pitt offense that fits perfectly with the city’s pro teams that can make a habit of posting crooked numbers on the scoreboard.
Pitt’s running back is the smart bet to become ACC Player of the Year. Pitt’s wide receiver is a smart bet to join him as an All-American. Conner and Boyd are special players that the defensive-minded Narduzzi smartly handed over to a reputable offensive coordinator.
Pitt’s quarterback is happy to let the ball runner, the pass catcher, and the new coaches take the spotlight.
He prefers the darkness of the film room. That is where he identified how he can wow everybody.
“I can definitely take more chances,” Voytik said. “Push the ball down field, get it to Tyler.
“But we’ve got James, and you want the ball in his hands, too.”
Voytik wasn’t wrong. Neither was Boyd nor Conner when Pitt’s two best players correctly noted that somebody touches the football before they do.
The way for Pitt to wow is for Voytik to go from a somebody to a star.