My friend Sean and myself headed over to the spring game yesterday not sure what to expect. We’re the odd types who are still optimistic but with spring games it’s really tough to judge things when a team is facing itself. Is something a good play by one or a bad play by another? I went into this with the intention of only looking at things I could say with certainty and the best way to do that is look at individual performances as opposed to overall impressions. Did the offense look better than the defense yesterday? Yes, but there are so many factors that go into that; I’m not willing to say the offense is better. If the offense was running complex plays and the defense was running a more vanilla setup, it makes a big difference.
I’ll start off with the thing everyone cares about the most: QB. I’m going to do 2 entries for the spring game: QBs and everyone else. I’ll start with the QBs today and get everything else done after watching the game on ESPN3 because it’s tough to see OL and DL play live.
Here are the stats Chris Peak posted for Savage and Voytik::
Savage: 6/11 80 yards
Voytik: 27/33 358 yards 3 TDs
Before those of you who haven’t seen anything about that yet freak out, don’t jump to conclusions. If Drew Carswell holds onto a red zone throw Savage’s stats look a lot better. Don’t let the stats deceive you. I don’t mean that to say Voytik didn’t look good, I mean to say Voytik didn’t look better than Savage if you focus on the how and why as opposed the result. A few notes I took on Savage:
-Perfect 3 step drop on throw to 82 (Garner). 20 yard dart for a 1st down.
-Great roll out on 4th down to the left in the red zone. Looks like Carswell should have had it, but great patience.
-Roll out to the right, kept eyes down field as pass rush came, threw away at the last second.
-Amazing zip to 88 (Weatherspoon) on 3rd and 11 for a first down.
Completion percentage (54.5%) correlates to accuracy, but that doesn’t mean he was off target; Savage was dead on. If you recall my article on his footwork, I immediately noticed an improvement. He wasn’t throwing flat footed, he was stepping into his throws. Even on the 3 step throw to Garner, it was 1-2-3 step up and throw. Quick feet like that will do him well even if the OL struggles. Virtually no pass rush we’ll face can get to a QB on a 3 step drop with a quick throw. A major difference between Savage and Voytik was the ability to throw in the pocket. While it’s easy to look calm when you can’t be hit, Savage was poised and kept his eyes downfield.
Another thing to consider with regards to playing time. Savage only played a little because the coaches are comfortable with him. Voytik played a lot because they wanted to give him the extra work. It’s not a negative for Voytik, it’s a positive for Savage. Since Voytik was the star of the show, let me go over my notes for him.
-Good pump fake on a quick slant to 88 (Weatherspoon). Pumped inside then came back out, gave 88 enough time to get separation.
-Poor pocket presence, struggling to find passing lanes in the pocket.
-Great rollout pass to 82 (Garner)
-Pass to 83 (Orndoff) for 34 yard score. Incredible speed by 83 to score.
-Good moves by 88 (Weatherspoon) on Voytik rollout
-Touchdown catch by 83 (Orndoff) on 4th and goal from Voytik. WIDE OPEN, looked like zone coverage, 2 receivers, 1 defender in the area. Good find by Voytik. Defense likely schemed pass to the right (where he was throwing all night) and didn’t expect him to come back left.
-88 (Weatherspoon) got wide open deep, Voytik found him. Throw about 50 yards in the air, still a little short, 88 had to slow down.
The one thing I noticed with Voytik is that a lot of his throws came on rollouts; I’d put the amount somewhere between 30-50%. He looked great when he rolled out but struggled in the pocket. It’s a combination between height and experience. Any QB 6’2” or shorter will struggle to see over the line. The way you combat this is looking between your OL as opposed to over them. This is how QBs under 6’ like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson throw and why NFL teams prefer guys 6’3” and taller. The other advantage to rolling out is that it removes half of the field for the QB. He’s only looking to the side he rolls out on to throw as opposed to the entire field. With only half the field, it’s a lot easier to make the correct decision.
I think a lot of Voytik’s spring game was designed to build his confidence up. I’m not saying he’s lacking confidence or anything but I think the main goal for Voytik was to get him prepared should he need to play. Once summer practices begin, there’s heavy emphasis on starters and getting them prepared for Florida State. There won’t be a lot of time to focus on backups. In a bit more of a game-like format, they ran an offense that fit Voytik’s abilities and it worked really well.
Chapman and Anderson didn’t get a whole lot of work and to be frank, if either see the field this season we’re in trouble. Chapman definitely needs a redshirt year but you can see flashes of his talent, especially with his feet. He’s a heck of an athlete and has a good arm, just needs some comfort. Trey is Trey.
In conclusion, you can see why the coaches want Savage to start over Voytik. With Savage, they can run a more diverse offense. With Voytik’s struggles in the pocket, we are a bit more limited on offense. Add in Savage’s quick release and confidence and I see why he’s our best option to win this year. However, if Voytik has to play for a game or two due to an injury to Savage, we’ll be OK. We can scheme around his pocket issues with his mobility but it’s not something you can do for an entire season.
I mentioned this in one of the comments sections that I think Savage can pull off something great this season. I can’t explain it beyond “talented and desperate” but I just feel like we’re due. Maybe it’s time the universe finally pays us back for the years of struggles. I’m not saying we win the ACC or anything, but we finally have a season that doesn’t end in disappointment because of the QB position. I’ll post about the rest of the team tomorrow or tuesday (I have an NFL column due Monday for ScoutsNotebook).
I don’t have too many followers from Pitt fans on twitter yet, but most of my tweets are NFL related at the moment, but the more Pitt followers I get the more I’ll shift tweets in that direction. A lot of stuff will be NFL draft related since the 1st round is a week from Thursday.