Spring practice starts today. Coach Chryst is already speaking with the media. I’m sure he’ll be his usual loquacious and charming self. Guy just doesn’t know when to stop talking. Look at these rambling answers.
Where do you think you guys will make the most progress this year? Or where would you like to see the most progress?
PC: Everywhere, seriously, we need to. The only consistent thing for us last was we were consistently inconsistent. We need to make strides and grow across the board. There’s not two or three things you can say, ‘Well, if we got this squared away we’d be that much better.’ In every area we have to get better.
Not sure what he means by “everywhere.” I only saw issues at QB, O-line, linebackers, special teams and D-line last year. I mean, sure there’s only one returning starter for the receiving corps. A new kicker will have to be found. Someone has to replace Holley at safety. But, um, I feel real good about the cornerbacks, running back and punter.
Dammit, spring practices are supposed to be about optimism and blind hope! Not terrifying reality of just how many questions there are.
So what should we talk about first? Improvement on the O-line? Linebackers? Position switching?
Bwah-ha-ha-ha! No, I’m kidding. Of course we start with obsessing on the QB. With people picking their personal choice and desperately seeking to prove their viewpoint is right before we even get to August.
For the record, I don’t have a personal preference. Like most, I believe it will be Chad Voytik or Tom Savage, with an early advantage to Savage with his age, arm-strength and presumed maturity. Tra’von Chapman is almost conceding that he expects to redshirt. And no one really expects Trey Anderson to grab the job.
I think both will be working like hell to win the job in no small part because of a limited window.
This is Savage’s last chance as a senior. That is the obvious thing.
He chose to walk-on at Pitt over Maryland and Delaware in large part due to Chryst’s reputation as a quarterback tutor in a pro-style offense and in small part because of Pitt’s discounted, in-state tuition.
Also, Savage’s brother, Bryan, played under Chryst at Wisconsin.
Savage and Voytik remarked how Chryst’s detailed film work has helped them grow.
“They don’t just tell you, ‘Here are the progressions, one, two three,’ ” Savage said of Chryst and quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger. “It’s more like, why is that the progression? I like understanding why.”
The problem is that Savage, 22, has only one more chance to make his mark in college.
“It’s kind of nerve-racking,” he said. “It’s weird to think you have one year left, and you have to do everything right now. It’s really difficult. You can’t let yourself get so comfortable with sitting out.
“This is my chance to just work and get better. Every practice is the Super Bowl for me.”
For Voytik, he knows next year Chapman will be breathing down his neck. Not to mention Chandler Kincade will be a freshman. And while Voytik was a big recruit and a huge reason that the 2012 class stayed together, there is always that nagging fear/question/worry that the coach will want the QB he recruited rather than “inherited.”
Still, Savage is the slightly presumed favorite. Couple that with a more nomadic path to Pitt, and it makes for a more compelling storyline. So there are pieces on Savage. This Q&A from a couple months ago.
Now you’re finally getting your opportunity. What has Coach told you about how he foresees the competition with Chad Voytik and Trey Anderson playing out in the spring?
TS: Coach doesn’t have to say much. At the end of the day, it’s competition, and I’m used to it. So we have to go out there and make each other better. At this point in my career, whatever is the best option for the team, that makes me happy.
Certainly, but I’m sure there is a part of you that desperately wants to win the job.
TS: I want to win it extremely badly. I want to go out there and play. I’m going to work as hard as I can to compete and that’s that. If the coach feels I’m the best option, that’s what we’ll do.
What have you homed in on or worked on in the last year?
TS: With doing the scout team, it brought back a little bit of backyard football for me, trying to make plays. That’s what I’ve been working on. As a freshman, you do what you’re told and play a little robotic. Now you open it up. It’s crazy I haven’t played since my freshman year and now I’m a senior. So you do a 180 and try and make plays and do everything you can to keep the chains moving.
What do you think it’s going to be like for you when you get in a game, considering you haven’t played in so long?
TS: I’ve been thinking about that the last two years of my life. Right now I would assume I’m going to be nervous, but I’d be lying to you if I told you I was going to be nervous because I really think I’ll just go out there and play as hard as I can. I’ve got one year to do it. I’ve been through it before, and I‘ve succeeded many times, and I’ve failed many times. I’m not too nervous about it, just go out there and have fun and play ball.
One year to do it is a familiar refrain from Savage. It was also a factor in why he came to Pitt. Coach Chryst succeeded with Russel Wilson in one year. Not that Wilson wasn’t already a good QB from NC State. But Chryst fit his talents with the offense already in place in a short time.
“I saw that he gives a one-year player an opportunity to compete,” Savage said. “He did that with Russell Wilson. I know it’s tough because some teams like to establish their future for four years, but I think coach Chryst really lets it be whoever the best man is plays. That’s all anybody can really ask for.”
When Savage arrived at Pitt in the summer, the work was just beginning. He said walking into camp not knowing what the future held was the hardest part for him on his journey, and that’s when he most often needed to turn to his friends and family for support.
“You can’t quit,” Tom, Sr., recalls telling his son. “You’ll look back later on in life. You’ll be very disappointed, when you have a kid, telling him you quit. You just can’t do that. It’s not really an option.”
In practice, Savage served as the scout-team quarterback. He mimicked the opposing team’s offense against Pitt’s first-team defense.
Just don’t expect Coach Chryst to rush to name a starter.
#Pitt coach Paul Chryst said he does not have a timetable for naming a starting a starting QB. His answer: “Labor Day.”
— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) March 5, 2013
I’m taking him at his word on this one after the time he took to go in-house (unintentional pun) on the DC.