March 30, 2014

What The Offense Offers

Filed under: Football,Practice — Chas @ 12:52 pm

I guess the only question I have is, why did they decide to work on this now?

While quarterback Chad Voytik goes through his first spring as the presumed starter, sharing snaps equally with Trey Anderson, he is working on cleaning up mechanics in his throwing motion.

“My stride length is a little long,” he said.

He said Chryst noticed it, but Voytik said he has been aware of it since high school.

If Voytik’s accuracy suffers in practice while making the changes, he isn’t worried.

“There are a lot of days before the first game,” he said.

Chryst said perfecting the details can make a difference.

“You have to teach what to do,” he said. “But how-to is important. That’s where you gain an edge.”

And by now, I mean why didn’t they work on it any time in the previous two years? Yeah, it beats deciding to fix this sort of thing in the fall, but Voytik is a redshirt sophomore. There was no coaching change during that time to throw any work on it off.

You would think that the time to work on it would be earlier when there is a lot less pressure and plenty more time to get it straightened out. This isn’t exactly the giant hitch in the throwing motion Pat Bostick had, but it just seems odd that the coaches waited until now to have him work on it. I guess Chryst being a lot closer to what the QBs are doing this year must have decided it wasn’t something that should be left uncorrected any longer. Well, as long as it is all taken care of before the end of August.

Staying with the QBs, and Coach Chryst is handling their coaching. He has hired a new graduate assistant specifically to help with the QBs. Is the new GA a Wisconsin guy? Of course he is.

After Brooks Bollinger resigned, Chryst added quarterbacks coach to his job description and hired [Joe] Budmayr, 23, as a graduate assistant to be his eyes and ears while he is tending to other players.

Chryst, who recruited Budmayr to Wisconsin five years ago, spends much of his time during Pitt’s spring drills working with quarterbacks Chad Voytik and Trey Anderson. He can’t be everywhere, however, and he trusts Budmayr to fill in the gaps.

“You are always looking for good, young coaches, and I was excited when he said that’s what he wanted to do,” Chryst said.

“He’s only a few years older than me,” said Voytik, 20. “But he’s very intelligent when it comes to football.”

Only 13 months ago, Budmayr was preparing to compete for the starting job at Wisconsin as a fifth-year senior. Midway through winter conditioning, nerve issues that caused two fingers on his throwing hand to go numb three years earlier resurfaced. At that point, he became a student coach under Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen.

Chryst hired him after the season.

At some point Chryst is going to run out of ex-Wisconsin players he knew, to hire. Right?

Voytik speaks well of Budmayr and his ability to help him learn Chryst’s offense. So there is that aspect. The complete familiarity with what Chryst wants and the terminology to help things go smoothly.

Of course the success that Voytik may have this year hinges on the O-line. The good news, returning starters who hopefully are better and healthier than last year. The bad news. Lord, they were not good.

The Panthers ranked 118th out of 123 Division I-A teams with 3.31 sacks allowed per game. They fared slightly better running the ball, but finished 102nd with 125.7 yards per game.

Only one starter, left guard Cory King, graduated from that unit.

[Offensive Line Coach Jim] Hueber said his main goal this spring was to have the left side of his line — [Jaryd] Jones-Smith and [Dorian] Johnson — catch up to the returning starters at center and on the right side.

Rotheram, the most experienced offensive lineman with 27 starts, said the continuity is paying dividends.

Last year, Pitt had no starters return to the same position along the line.

“Me and T.J., we’re on the same page,” Rotheram said. “And Artie’s back.

“It helps that the center’s back this year. [He’s a] veteran in the middle there directing us around.”

Rotheram said he, too, hopes to provide a veteran presence in the meeting room. Right now, that just means watching film with Johnson and the other young linemen and offering some pointers.

“We’ve got two younger guys, but they’re going to catch up and be right on pace with the rest of us,” Rotheram said.

I do love reading Jim Hueber talk about teaching the new kids. The down side with this spring is Adam Bisnowaty is still slowly coming back from the injury that ended his season early last year. Whether it is an overabundance of caution or simply that it is a back injury — which are never simple to return from — not having Bisnowaty is a concern.

Gabe Roberts is still out. Further cementing Artie Rowell at Center — and making me even more grateful that Rowell didn’t bail when Chryst came and was looking for bigger players on the O-line.

Well, at least the tradition of being worried about the state of the O-line continues. I really don’t know how I could head into a season without that nagging worry. (Though, I’d be willing to try it sometime.)

Meanwhile Manasseh Garner is sort of listed as a WR this season.

He was listed as a tight end, but also played more than his share of wide receiver and H-back.

Not that it affected his production. Garner finished 2013 as Pitt’s third-leading receiver with 33 catches for 391 yards and three touchdowns.

Heading into spring practice this year, Garner switched to wide receiver and appears to be the favorite to land a starting job opposite star Tyler Boyd.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst, though, still will get creative with how he uses Garner, a redshirt senior.

“I think he’ll end up being kind of his own [position],” Chryst said. “He’s got a different skill set, so we’ve got to play to that. I think right now, in kind of assessing the drills and the drill work, he could benefit more from some of the receiver stuff than the in-line blocking. I think that’ll come back to him pretty fast.”

Garner has slimmed down for his new role, at 215 pounds now compared to 235 last season, and said he can feel the change when he does individual drills with his new position group.

“I’m still able to do some of the stuff on the inside, but I’m getting the rewards and able to catch some more passes now,” Garner said.

It really seems that he is playing that hybrid role that Dorin Dickerson had several years ago. It couldn’t hurt Chryst to look at some old game tape on how Dickerson was used. I think Garner would be fantastic as that sort of player.

Obviously putting Garner at WR also makes it easier to put J.P. Holtz and Scott Orndoff out at TE more frequently.

I will note one other thing from the above article. Garner and other players raved about new Strength and Conditioning Coach Ross Kolodziej. This has been the theme with them so far in the offseason. Lots of love for Kolodziej.

Considering my feelings on the hire how the players look and hold up for the season will be watched closely.

Steve H- heaven forbid we criticize Savage for being immobile or not finding other than his 1st receivers. He played well for us but is replaceable. Let’s hope Voytik is that competent replacement because if not we are completely screwed.

It was fun watching Voytik play that second half of the bowl game but as Missourians say, “Show me” that he can be consistent with that type of play. A Spring game and 30 minutes against Bowling Green isn’t a firm hook to hang our hats on.

It is funny that all of a sudden it is made public that Voytik’s mechanics need work on as that is what sportswriters have said since he got on campus two years ago. Not that it was bad or anything but he was inconsistent in camps and practices. Again, looked good in the bowl game but he’ll face much better defenses and faster this year.

Personally, I think he might be best served to have him completely learn where everyone else will be on the field and then go out and play football without overly great emphasis or concern on the mechanics. What PITT is going to have on offense this season is a group of quick decision playmakers and home run hitters with Boyd, Gardner, Conner, Orndoff (who can make big plays downfield) and Bennett. We saw what A&M’s Manziel could do with pure athletic ability so maybe we throw those players out there and tell them to have fun and score TDs.

The biggest mistake of Chryst’s PITT career would be to move Conner to DE or to purposefully take carries away from him. Are you kidding me… a true FR who racks up 5.5 ypc and beats the crap out of defenders. Conner behind a better OL (and it just has to be in 2014) will be a thing of beauty to watch. The RB recruits may be highly regarded and fun to watch in the spring but we’ve two good RBs now to start the games.

Comment by Reed 04.01.14 @ 7:09 am

Has Orndoff come back from his injury yet, and is he participating in full contact Spring drills now, Reed?

Comment by Dr. Tom 04.01.14 @ 9:49 am

Dr T – I’ve no idea and haven’t either been in touch with any staff or visited spring practices.

My contributions will be all opinions now vice what I had learned in previous years… not that involved any longer.

Comment by Reed 04.01.14 @ 10:04 am


I respect your opinion, but I’m in the camp that sees Connor as a good but not great back. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris James is a better running threat. Give me the home-run hitter versus the battering ram approach. The DE position is looking pretty weak with Durham running 1st team. I still think the TEAM may be better overall with Connor at DE…

Go Pitt.

Comment by MajorMajors 04.07.14 @ 8:01 pm

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