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Starkey: Pitt’s problem is talent, not effort

Tyler Boyd was being honest. I’m sure of that. I’m just not sure he was accurate.

Boyd, Pitt’s sensational sophomore wide receiver, told Jerry DiPaola of the Trib on Tuesday that only “a select few” Pitt players have the right mindset, or, as Boyd put it, are “willing to go all out.”

That is quite a statement from a sophomore, no matter how talented he might be.

Among the “select few” Boyd cited were all of his ex-Clairton High teammates — Kevin Weatherspoon, Terrish Webb and Titus Howard. Which is interesting, as Howard hurt the team badly by getting himself suspended for the entire season for disciplinary reasons.

Howard should try harder to follow the rules next season.

Boyd also included running back James Conner, safety Ray Vinopal, linebacker Todd Thomas, defensive lineman K.K. Mosley-Smith and offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings among “the select few.”

It might have been unrealistic to expect Boyd to identify every player he feels is giving his best, but there was a notable omission: quarterback Chad Voytik.

As it turns out, it was an innocent mistake — and also a good example of why it’s a bad idea to go down the road of naming names.

I spoke with Boyd after practice Wednesday, and he made it clear that Voytik’s noted work ethic is not in question. Nor is their tight relationship.

“That’s pretty much my guy, my right-hand man,” Boyd said. “He feeds me the ball. We have a great bond.”

Boyd was with Pitt’s sports information director, E.J. Borghetti, as he spoke to me by phone.

“I didn’t mean to call out any players or bring any harm to the team,” he said. “I just feel like guys need to be on the same competitive level that I’m particularly on. … I feel like some guys are lagging behind and not giving it their all at times.”

This could be a case of Boyd trying to exert leadership beyond his example on the field. Which is commendable. He says he just wants everybody on the same page, pulling for each other.

I can see that. But I can’t get on board with this line from the Trib story: “If we had more guys willing to go all out, then we won’t be able to be touched.”

Pitt’s problem isn’t effort. It’s talent.

Even if every player on the roster was sleeping, eating and breathing football 16 hours a day and lifting weights in his sleep the other eight, this team very likely still would be 4-5 overall, 2-3 in the ACC. OK, maybe a game better if the head coach hadn’t fallen asleep late in the Duke game.

Middling talent gets you a middling record.

The best example of the talent shortage was the 21-10 loss to dreadful Akron, a historically embarrassing defeat that ranks as the worst of the Paul Chryst era (yes, worse than Youngstown State). The amazing part was that Akron appeared to match Pitt athletically and often pushed it around. Akron stacked the line of scrimmage against Conner. That Pitt could not capitalize had nothing to do with effort but with the fact that Chryst has not yet developed a quarterback who can consistently make a team pay for such strategy.

Voytik might yet be that guy. Time will tell.

Did anyone detect a team-wide lack of effort in the 51-48 double overtime loss to Duke? I sure didn’t. Chryst cost his team its best chance to win by not going for two in the first overtime and by not giving the ball to his best player (Conner) on Pitt’s final, failed possession.

It looked to me like Pitt put forth an outstanding effort. It also looked like they couldn’t stop anybody.

Check the talent level on defense. Is there a single bona fide game changer?

Maybe some of Chryst’s players just need more experience. It’s more likely he needs better players, more athletes at or near Tyler Boyd’s level.

If he gets them — and that’s an if as big as the Cathedral of Learning — nobody will be talking about a lack of effort.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at [email protected].


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