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July 27, 2014

Reading over the last two posts Chas wrote about the 2014 PITT football team I’ve been having a great time with the over 200 comments you guys left on them.  They show just how very ready we all are for PITT training camp to open next week and for the season to start soon afterward.  I’m just as anxious to get the ‘real life’ stuff happening and to jump in with both feet as anyone.

I’ve waited on writing another piece until the 2014 PITT Football Media Guide came out so that I at least can provide some truthful info to go with my opinions that I’ll lay out in this post, and please  remember they are my opinions unless I preface an item with “This is a no bullshit…”.  I’ll try to mix and match both though.

As to the comments on those two last articles; there are pretty detailed reasons we fans have for why we’ll probably either suck or be great – but no one seems to explain why we’ll probably be 7-6 again, or maybe 8-5 with a good bounce or two.   That’s pretty much where I am at this point of the offseason without having had my ‘boots on the ground’ as I will soon at a couple of the camp practices coming up.  Now, that projection can change either way once I see how the kids are doing during practices so nothing here is etched in stone.

Here are some of my thoughts on the offensive side of the ball going into the season.

I’m not as high on the expectation for quarterback Chad Voytik as some of us are. Yes, he did well in the bowl game and that showed me that at least he isn’t a deer in the headlights.  But beyond that I’m not convinced that he’ll match the level of play our last two QBs gave us in 2012 & 2013.  That’s right, I’m including Sunseri’s productive season of 2012 – what are you going to do about it?  That said I’m also not as panicky as some are in case Voytik gets hurt out there.

Personally I don’t think there is a very big gap in talent between Voytik and Anderson.  However, there is no doubt who the starter will be regardless of what the staff may say and regardless of the fact that the QBs are the only offensive position listed as “or” in the current depth chart.  The fact that Voytik has three years of ball to play at PITT whereas Anderson doesn’t probably tips the scales a bit in Voytik’s favor also.

I am high on the running game for two reasons: first because I love Conner as an RB, especially if he can stay healthy.  A move to defensive end will be a huge mistake.  I don’t even like the idea of his getting only a little playing time there.  When Conner isn’t banged up his presence and play changes the offense and makes the defense adjust accordingly, which is to try to get at him before he gets a head of steam up.  There is huge value in having a guy carrying the ball who the opponent’s linebackers and defensive backs are afraid of.  Conner is big and strong, faster than you may think and very, very aggressive.

That aggressiveness will bring about the second reason I like the run, and that is because we now have the talent and more experience up front to start really owning other team’s defensive lines.  Our OL played inconsistently last year with more poor showings than good ones, especially in pass protection.  I think that will change.  A large part of the line is returning intact with a good Center in Rowell; Clemmings who has surprised me with his play at Right Tackle; veteran Rotheram at Right Guard and young Adam Bisnowaty finally healthy and starting again at Left Tackle.

There’s four guys right there with some seasons under their belts.  Throw in Dorian Johnson who, burdened with too high expectations of the fans and media, wasn’t ready last year to start at all, now has a year of weight training, college coaching and getting some playing time behind him. He just might be ready to shine this season.  But what I think is positive about our OL this season is that we finally have some actual college-level talent as backups.

Some of our redshirt FR OL, Reese, Officer and Jones-Smith should see some playing time also. They are all Chryst’s kids and I do believe the offensive line is his recruiting strong suit. Combine all that with the OL blocking in front of a running back who wants to kick ass as much as the linemen do and it becomes infectious.  Really, who else on the team do you want in a 3rd and short yardage situation? Conner can set the hard ass tone of the offense that way if he stays health and only if he stays at RB.

To chase the running game’s tail back around, it won’t just be Conner rushing the ball.  I know everyone is high on Chris James with that impressive 4* HS career but I’m not expecting too much from him as a true freshman.  Converted Safety to RB Rachid Ibrahim is my sleeper rusher this season and I think he’ll supplant Bennett as the second back on the offense, fullback excluded. He may be on the verge of stardom either this year or next.  He was a true HS prep star here in Maryland and I think he’ll reproduce that at PITT before too long.  Big prediction but I think it’ll happen.

Now let’s go back to the passing game again.  Even though I don’t see Voytik, or Anderson, being the singular strength of the offense, as Savage was last season, I do think that we’ll have a serviceable air attack especially with Tyler Boyd at WR (enjoy the video!).  Boyd is the returning offensive star; all his accolades were and are well deserved and I’ve no doubt that he’ll be as productive, if not more, in 2014.  Hopefully he’ll have more TDs this season; seven isn’t that great a number really.  Along with Gardner as the heir apparent to Devin Street and who will get an equal share of passes thrown to him I think we’ll be set at that position.  Add Ronald Jones returning from suspension with his speed and quickness to the equation and that is a plus also.

Where we will see a marked improvement is in our TE corps involvement in the skilled side of the offense. This is where Chad Voytik’s abilities will have the good and safe outlet for his passing game.   Depending on how well the OL does let’s hope we can allow our good TEs, J.P. Holtz and Scott Orndoff, to drop their pass protection responsibilities and get out behind the LBs for those quick yards.  Voytik isn’t going to be airing out the ball as Savage did, he just doesn’t have the strength or talent to do that on a regular basis, so a shorter passing game will be his bread and butter.  Both those TEs can bull rush downfield after the catch so we’ll get yardage there also.

I anticipate a deep pass try in about each half of the games to get Boyd completions downfield and to keep the Safeties afraid of what Boyd can accomplish with quick strike plays.  I’m not saying Voytik can’t go long if necessary, we saw a nice 62 yard pass to Boyd in the bowl game.  If you remember he threw that pass like a center fielder trying to get a runner out at home plate.  That won’t cut it over and over; we’ll see a much shorter game out of our QB this season.

That said Boyd will have way more YAC this year as he won’t be the target of all those Savage bomb passes through the air. I see Boyd getting way more intermediate crossing patterns where he can use his excellent running skills after a reception, which given his talent might even result in more TDs.  I also think Jaymar Parrish will open our eyes even more as a FB/H-Back player, he had seven receptions last season but that will jump up this year. He’s a good player and his blocking is as good as we have had since Hynoski’s days on the field.

So, now back to the most visible position on the field with the QB. My main concern with Voytik isn’t necessarily his arm strength or his accuracy; it is his habit of closing the pass play down too early when he abandons the called play and tucks the ball in and runs. While this will be a strength if he does it only when appropriate his game now is to rely on his feet as much, if not more, as his arm. Good pocket presence comes with experience so let’s hope that Voytik’s second year of taking the QB2 snaps in practice has helped with this, but it is a true concern.

You’ll notice that now when he gets pressure his first reaction isn’t to keep his eyes downfield and try to keep the pass alive, it has been to turn his head and look for a ground outlet.  He’ll have some plays specifically designed for him to run and he’ll be good, maybe even great, at that.  It’s his too-early scrambles that might hurt us if he doesn’t get out of that habit.

HC Paul Chryst and our OC Joe Rudolph have a tricky task on their hands in teaching him to stay in the pocket longer without hurting his ability to run if necessary. They don’t want to take that joyful play away especially if he’s productive at it but have to ensure it is a option and not a first reaction.  I think we’ll see some mistakes along these lines early on then when he gets some games and pressure experience under his belt he’ll make better decisions.  If that happens and he accepts and understands his mandated role in the passing game then we may see an offense that is balanced and effective.

Chris Blewitt was fine for us last season as a true FR.  At least he didn’t live up to his last name, which will be the punch line of announcer’s jokes for the next three years.  Blewitt was 14 of 18 for a 78% success rate and that’s fine.  I think he’ll both get more FG shots this year and will have a bit of a better percentage.  We’ll need those extra points this season and he’ll provide them.

Notice I haven’t mentioned any true freshman is this post.  That is because not one of us has any idea how well they will adapt to college and the higher level of competition.  Some can do it right away like Boyd, but most do need to get acclimated to the size and speed of the other players – to say nothing of the much more intense training camps and academics.  We’ll know more about their skills after actually seeing them in camp action and I’ll write about them then.

Oh what the hell!  Keep an eye on Adonis Jennings, an across the recruiting board 4* recruit who is big, strong and fast.  We have seen that WR (along with RB) is a position where true rookies can excel and Jennings might just have the skills and talent to be hard to keep off the field.  We can hope anyway.





Hope Voytik dosen’t develop “Alveraz Arm”.

Comment by alcofan 07.27.14 @ 10:02 pm

Ok I’ll chime in. There is a reason Conner was being recruited by Pitt and every other school as a rush end/OLB, because that is his natural position. Like I repeat over and over watch the tape. He will have more sacks than Durham. James will have more yards than Conner. Jennings will have more TD’s than Boyd due to size I think he will become Voytik’s safety blanket. OK flame away.

Comment by pd 07.27.14 @ 10:52 pm

Thanks for your insight Reed! One small suggestion: Give up on the Tino numbers please. We all know he had good numbers between the 20′s and would ALWAYS disappear in the 4th quarter, never once having a game winning drive when the game was on the line. Chad V. has ALREADY accomplished this. It’s time to leave Tino in the distant past and move on. CV is a winner and I’m excited to watch him this year. H2P

Comment by Pittman4ever 07.28.14 @ 2:26 am

I really hope Voytik has a great career. So far he was a deer-in-headlights for his few hurry-up substitutions. In the bowl game he had a half to mentally prepare and he was excellent. Hopefully that is the player we see this year.

Comment by Caw Miller 07.28.14 @ 6:15 am

This team is developing a “winner” attitude with a bunch of young guys ready to take responsibility for making it happen. The pizza bowl game showed that potential in spades! ALL of the points scored in that game for Pitt came as a result of Freshmen players! Stop for a moment and really digest that fact.

That 62 yd pass from Voytik BTW was a better thrown ball at that distance than anything EVER thrown by our 3 year starting QB that played before Savage, so we’ll be just fine relying on Chad’s arm for the long ball when necessary, thank you.

Comment by Dr. Tom 07.28.14 @ 6:44 am

Manessa Garner and JP Holtz are two guys are solid players who fly under the PR radar. I also think Isaac Bennett is a solid runner and will contribute. The coaches will have to decide one way or the other if Conner is to play defense or offense. The game has changed, and playing defense against offenses like UNC’s fast pace or Georgia Tech’s triple option take a full time commitment, both in responsibility as well as lungs full of air. This isn’t high school where you can come in just dominate the opposition.

I’d like to think our special teams will improve. That breakdown cost us the game vs. UNC. I also thought our kick off return average was very poor but I haven’t looked at the stats on that.

Comment by PittMan 07.28.14 @ 7:48 am

Correct about Sunseri’s deep ball Dr. T. The only reason I mentioned him along with Savage was that we fans have a habit of comparing STATS of current players with those who came immediately before them. He scrambled to the right and then take a few steps into his throw to generate power. That isn’t a deep pass that we should be seeing from a QB – that was a Hail Mary type pass at the end of a broken play. Great that it worked though.

Now – when the season rolls around and he gets some real PT under his belt maybe he’ll get better at this, but I’ve watched him in multiple practices and scrimmages and so I think we’ll see many less long balls than we did last season. He’s not the kind of QB who stays in the pocket and throws deep balls. As I said, we may see more yardage on some plays with Boyd getting YAC and Voytik’s passing production may be pretty good given his short-intermediate game.

I think he’ll be a three year starter for us because he has those ‘intangibles’ that successful QBs seem to possess and I’m actually pretty high on him being our starting QB.

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 7:53 am

And, I will again present the case for Ryan Winslow. Last year we had so many lousy punts at times when we needed length and/or accuracy. I am hoping that Winslow also is a reason for optimism this year.

H2P

Comment by pmdH2P 07.28.14 @ 7:55 am

That isn’t a deep pass that we should be seeing from a QB – that was a Hail Mary type pass at the end of a broken play. Great that it worked though

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 7:53 am
———————
What are you talking about? That was play action with a designed bootleg. Boyd beat his man with speed and Voytik hit him in stride..

That’s exactly the type of throw we should be seeing. Exactly the type of play that works for run oriented teams.

Comment by BostonsCommon 07.28.14 @ 8:13 am

Chryst wants to build a team around a strong running attack. That’s what h did at Wiscy and that is what he is doing here. He likes to use multiple running backs and he is building depth. This is good because running backs get hurt so the more the better.

Bennett and Conner have both been hurt so not relying on one guy is smart. We have the three from last year, add James and Ollison, makes five. If all five are ready, Conner can play D on some obvious passing downs.

If we cannot pressure QB’s other teams will easily outscore a running team. This was a big problem even with Donald last year.

Comment by gc 07.28.14 @ 8:16 am

Boston – bootleg, scramble… whatever – my point was that he had to run three steps into the throw to generate power to get the ball downfield. Again, I might be wrong with this but that is what I’ve seen him do in practice.

Honestly – what has anyone seen from Conner on defense that makes them think he’d be a starting DE. He had no tackles last season at all. I think this getting him work at DE in the practices is an insurance policy if he’s needed at DE due to injury at that position. However, I haven’t seen him in practice at DE, he didn’t play there last pre-season, so when I get up next week I may think differently. I still want him at RB.

PITTMan – the 2014 Spring Prospectus:…

link to grfx.cstv.com

… has all the 2013 stats and your thoughts about our Special Teams defense is accurate, for both Kickoff Defense and Punting Defense. PITT had a 16.2 yard Kickoff Return average to our opponents 21.4 – big difference. Our punting itself wasn’t too bad, Yolick had a 42.5 yard average however our poor punt return defense allowed 24 punt returns for 390 yards, a 16.3 avg (118th nationally). Way too much.

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 8:56 am

I’m expecting HCPC to be installing a few safety valve options between the tight ends and our scramble inclined QB that can explote the tendency of opposing LBs and/or DBs to brake their coverage on broken pass plays while they line up the QB for a TFL hero defensive play. Voytik throws the short pass well on the run and I can see him dropping a nice little dump pass over the incoming LBs head to an Orndoff or Holtz as they shed their pass protection block and opt for the pass coming from Chad into that vacated spot in the defensive backfield.

I especially enjoy the YAC spectical that Holtz displays, he punishes his eventual tacklers. The TE is a position Chryst loves to utilize. So far in his Pitt tenure that position has been way underutilized. With Voytik behind center, I think that these guys come into their full potential.

Just one more weapon in a what is becoming a well stocked offensive war chest.

Comment by Dr. Tom 07.28.14 @ 8:56 am

^^^ Dr. Tom – excellent point about the TEs and I agree.

Hopefully we see them used like Chryst did at UW as the OC. In 2011 he used TE Jacob Pedersen to the tune of 30 catches for 356 yards. Even better was in 2010 when Chryst got TE Lance Kendrick 43 catches for 663 yards – a fantastic 14.7 average. Compare that with our receptions leader Boyd’s 13.8 ypc average.

I think either of our TEs have the talent to accomplish that production given the opportunity, and as you and I said above Voytik’s talents may be just right for that to happen.

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 9:08 am

Boston – bootleg, scramble… whatever….

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 8:56 am
——————————
It’s not whatever, Reed. They are plays designed to take advantage of over-aggressive defenses. And in the process, play to your QBs strengths. Which I would expect you to understand.

Look, your narrative is clear, as well as what you think of Voytik and his arm.. But lets not make it seem like play calling to the strengths of your QB is a bad somehow a bad thing?

Frankly, if the line plays to the same level they did last season, I’d roll Voytik out every snap…

You make it sound like because he can’t throw it through the far uprights from the 20, he can’t hit a 20 yard out route.

Comment by BostonsCommon 07.28.14 @ 9:16 am

Reed – QBs don’t throw too many bombs, but I have no concerns about Voytik stepping into those throws when he makes them. I’m more concerned about the other 95% of throws.

Every QB has his strengths & weaknesses. I am not sure what to expect re Voytik, but I’m admittedly hopeful, not only because of that bowl performance, but also because he has attributes that other recent qb’s have not had. TS had no mobility and took a ton of needless sacks plus he completed most of his throws near the line of scrimmage which padded stats, but was an accurate mid range thrower. Savage also had limited mobility, questionable decision making and struggled with touch on short throws, but threw a nice long ball and was tough. I have no doubt Voytik will have his own weaknesses, but I do like where his strengths seem to be.

Back to Reed – I agree regarding your comment about Connor at DE. In his defense, he hasn’t had a lot of experience in college yet so he may improve techniques etc, but I agree.

Comment by 1618mt 07.28.14 @ 9:20 am

@Chas

Your memory is undoubtedly better than mine. However, I do recall many times when we needed a great punt last year and we got a shank. And, when we needed to pin the other team inside the 20 and we got a punt that sailed into the end zone. I am looking forward to Winslow and I think that our coverage will also improve as a result of him being the punter.

H2P

Comment by pmdH2P 07.28.14 @ 9:23 am

Oops. I meant @Reed

Comment by pmdH2P 07.28.14 @ 9:23 am

Boston – well, I do understand the difference. I also stated that he’ll have designed plays where the staff will use his strengths, which are rollouts and running the ball. To wit: “He’ll have some plays specifically designed for him to run and he’ll be good, maybe even great, at that. It’s his too-early scrambles that might hurt us if he doesn’t get out of that habit.”

I also never implied that at all regarding Voytik’s arm strength. As a matter of fact I did just the opposite when I stated that “Voytik isn’t going to be airing out the ball as Savage did, he just doesn’t have the strength or talent to do that on a regular basis, so a shorter passing game will be his bread and butter” “Shorter” meaning the short and intermediate routes (i.e. a 20 yard out). That will be his kind of passing success.

In essence you agreed to what I wrote above.

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 9:29 am

We need better QB play!! Everybody talks about Navy and UNC losses last year but nobody talks about the QB play in those games. Holtz will never be as wide open as he was in the Navy game and our QB decided to put a bullet in Gardners ear hole. They were inside the 10 on the first two drives in the UNC game and came away with 3 points and a QB fumble. I for one don’t care how far Chad can throw the ball as long as he can distribute it to all the talent that will be on the field and finish with TD’s. Not getting sacked 50 times a year would be nice also.

Comment by Steve h 07.28.14 @ 9:50 am

Thank you for the article and insight, Reed. It’s exciting to be talking about actual football with camp right around the corner. A few thoughts:

- I really like the comment about Connor setting the tone for the offense. He is an absolute beast and the nastiness/attitude he runs with is a joy to watch and I can’t imagine it doesn’t fire up the rest of the guys.

- I’m eager to hear about the rest of the RB core as camp progresses. Ibrahim improved as the season went on. Bennett is a guy I root for because he seems like a great team player and I think he might have another level. Remember, he played through injuries last year so if he is healthy he might have another gear that can really help the team. As far as Chris James is concerned, I watched his highlight tape like everyone else and he seems like the real deal. But, I’ll hold off on any expectations until we get some feedback from camp.

- As many have already stated, the TEs might break out this year. The OL should be improved, allowing the TEs to get a little bit more involved in the pass game. Holtz is a beast and a nightmare for opposing defenses from a physical standpoint. Orndoff can really run and should be able to exploit LBs by getting separation. All of this will be aided by Voytik’s ability to run with the ball, causing LBs and safeties to keep their eye on him.

- Parrish is a football player and really did a nice job leading the way last year. I expect he’ll continue to improve and maybe catch a few more passes this year. Wow, opposing defenses better bring their hardhat with Parrish leading the way for Connor!

Comment by JAM05PITT 07.28.14 @ 11:11 am

Your mention of the Navy game raised a thought that may sidetrack this entire thread, but I am hoping in 2014 the officiating is better. That Navy game was directly lost by sorry officiating (although I do not believe they used an ACC crew). The hit on Street at VPI was so obvious any moron could see it was flagrant. Not only no ejection but not even a penalty? That’s when you really smell a rat. What is the agreement for the Iowa game? Big Ten refs? Sometimes the out of conference games are best because I think they go out of their way to prove impartiality, while the conference refs know who they are slanting for from the get go.

Comment by PittMan 07.28.14 @ 11:19 am

Better QB protection from a more seasoned in sync OL (how could it be much worse from last year?), a much more mobile quarterback that possesses another gear that gives him the speed that our last two QBs could only dream of, and a winner attitude that will project well in the huddle produces an entirely different dimension to the offense this season.

What a relief it will be for Pitt fans, after the last four years, having a little bit of hope when a blitz occurs or a OL breakdown sends a pass rusher into our backfield, that we’ll have a QB back there that can end up causing him to be grabbing at air while Voytik scampers off on a broken play to gain yardage with his feet. This is not necessarily an ability that Coach wants to encourage, as Reed has already eluded to, but it sure is nice to have another arrow in the quiver when you’re assessing your starting QB’s strengths and weaknesses.

Comment by Dr. Tom 07.28.14 @ 11:20 am

I expect Pitt to lean heavily on the running game, especially the first half of the season. The passing game is going to look completely different this year – not that it can’t be effective.

Gone will be the 15 yard outs that Boyd made a living with last year. Gone are the deep posts (mostly). Enter the rollout, bootleg, slants, and TE routes.

Honestly, if Pitt can cut its sacks in half, that alone will make the offense more effective. I think with a mobile Voytik and an improved and experienced line, that can happen.

Comment by Iron Duke 07.28.14 @ 11:20 am

Reed, agree that Conner needs to be our feature back. Kids that big, and that fast, that actually have RB skills don’t come along often. He reminds me of John Riggins…I don’t know about all this keep Voytik in the pocket stuff…Sounds like the old JoePA line…The kid is a football player. He has a certain set of skills. Why use a mobile QB if you want a typical, drop-back, pocket passer. To conform Voytik to that mold would appear to be a recipe for disaster…If he is going to be here for three years, why not design the offense around his skill set with designed roll-outs, QB draws, maybe a few option plays? Frankly, I have always thought that “arm strength” was an over rated quality in QB’s…Someone said it above, most pass plays require more accuracy (timing and touch) than they do strength. I don’t think Joe Montana could throw a ball more than 50 yards to save his life, but he was still a pretty decent QB.

Comment by HbgFrank 07.28.14 @ 11:27 am

Damn – reading these comments I think we’ll get over 32 ppg!! Just kidding a little there – we had a pretty poor 26.1 ppg last season, so anything would be an improvement but another TD per game might be asking too much.

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 11:28 am

@ JAMO5PITT, I like doing research on these kids that are coming in with each recruiting class, especially since many are not blue chippers and you have to dig a little deeper for information on them, beyond just googling their names most of the time.

Now when you dig deeper into this Chris James recruit, the thing that jumps out at you is that over the last three years, this kid has made a conscious decision to become the best football player that he can be by total dedication to reaching his full potential. The transformation from his skinny freshman physic to the rock solid athlete that he is today didn’t just happen by growing up. James did the old fashioned way, he EARNED IT! He also has employed the services of a 1st rate trainer in the process.

James had a dozen offers to big time programs, a half dozen in the B1G where he could have stayed a lot closer to home, if he preferred. He came to Pitt for one main reason, he believed the Pitt coaches when they told him that he could earn immediate playing time here and that he could make a meaningful contribution to the team as a true freshman.

Believe me when I guarantee you, that barring injury, that you will not be able to keep this kid off the field this season. He is going to be the second coming of Tyler Boyd manifested in the form a solid running back.

Chris James has a plan for his life, it’s making a name for himself in the NFL. He decided to focus on that goal when he was about 14 and has been working towards that ambition ever since. This kid is driven, goal oriented and talented enough to be a star in the college game at the front end, which means right now. And he is not going to enjoy taking no for an answer during his freshmen season, so there will be no redshirt for James, I’ll assure you.

If you thought Conner came on the college stage with some production, wait until you witness this kid from Notre Dame HS prove his worth to the Panthers. We were very, very lucky to have gotten this player into a Panther uniform, he is going to raise some eyebrows this season, You’ll see.

Comment by Dr. Tom 07.28.14 @ 11:54 am

Reed… agree with your MAJOR points.

Cautious Optimism about Voytik. The Optimism is based on the SPARK he brought to the Offense in the Second Half of the Bowl Game.

Other than that, people need to keep in mind that Voytik DOES NOT have the strongest or most accurate arm. As you and I have pointed out before… between the two, Trey Anderson is the better passer.

Now, I’ve been pretty critical of Voytik’s QB potential since first seeing him in High School. BUT, so far so good. His Athletic Ability / Ability to Run and mental approach to the game could help make up for whatever he’s lacking when it comes to throwing.

Agree on Ibrahim getting more carries. Against Miami, he showed he has SOME SPEED… noticeably more than Bennett who really looked VERY AVERAGE at times… example Navy.

And yes… despite ALL the CRAXY TALK… Conner will be the FEATURE BACK and an integral part of the Pitt’s Offense come Fall.

While NOT AN ELITE BACK in High School… his AGGRESSIVENESS and SURPRISING ATHLETIC ABILITY makes him a force to be dealt with at the College Level.

Behind an IMPROVED O-Line and with a year of maturity, I look for “PANTHER BEAST MODE” to pick up right where he left off so long as the “I” word doesn’t become a factor.

Comment by PittofDreams 07.28.14 @ 12:34 pm

Dr. Tom,

You’re not kidding when you say HE transformed his body by putting in extremely hard work. I watched some of his YouTube videos and was absolutely amazed at his strength and agility.

He seems like a very humble and focused guy so I’m excited to hear what he is able to do in camp.

By the way, the video of him doing plyometrics (especially jumping onto the tires) was incredible.

Comment by JAM05PITT 07.28.14 @ 12:35 pm

Of course meant CRAZY Talk… as in… Conner needs to move to Defense… or someone else not named Conner should be Pitt’s FEATURE BACK… or Conner is TOO SLOW despite running a 4.4 Something Forty-Yard Dash this Spring.

Stuff like that.

Comment by PittofDreams 07.28.14 @ 12:45 pm

POD – “Between the 2, Anderson is the better passer”? That’s hilarious. Anderson is a fine young man though and provides needed depth. Will be very interesting to see how our incoming freshman looks.

Comment by 1618mt 07.28.14 @ 12:59 pm

1618mt… The TRUTH can sometimes be funny.

Comment by PittofDreams 07.28.14 @ 1:07 pm

I would have to think the talent level between Voytik and Anderson has to be pretty substantial.

Voytik was a 4-5 star recruit and was a participant at the Elite QB camp.

Whereas Anderson had 1 offer coming out of HS, Bryant College. Didn’t even know they had a team.

I would say there is a large talent gap.

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 1:19 pm

Enjoyed the read Reed. :-)

However you almost spoiled it by bringing up… you know who’s name.

Voytik will be more productive in the most important area, leading PITT to victories.

Yardage in between the 30′s doesn’t impress me much.

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 1:29 pm

Dear Hebfrank,
I am confident PC will use Voytik much like he used Russell Wilson at Wisky. In fact, the 2nd half of the pizza bowl proves that as Chryst dumped the Tom Savage plays and replaced them with plays that Voytik would be successful at. More of same for this year, no doubt.
Also it looks like by mid season the RB’s will be: Conner (1st string), James (2nd), Bennett (3rd), and Ibrahim (4th)- barring injuries of course. Hence, I think it may be MORE possible that Ibrahim goes to the D (where he 1st was) than it would be for Conner to move to D.

Comment by pittman4ever 07.28.14 @ 1:39 pm

I concur that we have a known quantity with Connor at RB. The kid was stellar when he wasn’t banged up and got a little blocking.

As I posted previously he would have had over a 1000 yards as a true freshman had he not missed the Old Dominion game and not missed parts of other games.

So with that in mind, how do justify moving a 1000 yard rusher to another position.

He’s a known quantity at RB, on a team with 2 other TB’s that carried the ball last year, and one of those had less than 20 carries.

And while we all hope James or Ollison are the next coming of Shady or Dion, that is yet to be determined. Therefore they are at this point, an unknown quantity.

Connor is a beast of a RB and needs to stay put.
Especially the first 4 games, as we really shouldn’t need him against Delaware, BC, FIU or Akron. By that time hopefully the DE position will be in good hands with someone other than Durham.

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 1:43 pm

Emel – I’ll disagree a bit – that is actually a larger perception gap by the recruiting services. I’ve watched both Anderson and Voytik up close in multiple Southside practices and will say that the physical talent level between the two is much closer than PITT fans believe it to be.

I do think that Voytik will be the ‘better’ QB for PITT this season though and obviously the staff sees it that way also.

I don’t want the staff to turn Voytik into a ‘pocket only’ passer like Savage was – that would be hobbling a real strength of his in his ability to create space to pass the ball if needed. However, the vast majority of called passing plays are built for a QB to take his 3-5-7 step drops and have a pocket form around him. Regardless of the QBs individual talents most passing plays are like that. As I said I think we’ll see a lot of ‘quick’ passes by Voytik and that happens from a pocket.

Voytik has to master that before anything else. Rolling out to buy time is valued also and he’ll be good at it but if anyone thinks Chryst wants to see that on every pass play they are very mistaken. The video provided in the article was pretty clear that Chryst wanted Voytik to stand and throw first and foremost and only to leave the pocket if absolutely necessary.

Watch this video again and really pay attention to what both Chryst and Voytik himself say about his wanting to take off too soon. Specifically between the 1:05 and the 1:45 marks. Then Chryst addresses it again at the 2:20-2:50 marks when he says that there is a lot of time to correct it but also to not take the fun out of playing.

link to youtube.com

That’s why I said if Voytik cas assimilate the task of pocket passing ALONG with using his legs we’ll have a balanced passing attack.

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 1:47 pm

Truth be told… Voytik has been plagued with ACCURACY PROBLEMS.

This Spring time was spent trying to correct some flaws in his throwing motion.

On the other hand, Anderson has been more consistent in practice.

And… it’s true. If you were to line them up and see who could throw the farthest… it would be Anderson.

Problem is… people still have an image of Anderson as an 18-year-old Freshman QB who was not only thrown to the wolves by Graham… but was also suffering from severe case of tendinitis of the wrist which SEVERELY LIMITED his ability to throw the football.

No longer the case.

There is a GOOD CHANCE you’ll have a chance to see for yourself this Fall.

Comment by PittofDreams 07.28.14 @ 1:47 pm

Good write-up Reed.

Comment by 1618mt 07.28.14 @ 2:07 pm

Stopped reading this at the mention of Suns.. because I don’t give a rat’s a$$ about him, don’t want to hear or read his name! Our football team’s attitude and vibe, lead mainly by a couple of talented kids, is so much more positive and responsible! It’s like the program has changed! I will give credit to HCPC and Mr. Street for nurturing that new vibe through time! Hail to PITT! UPone

Comment by UPone 07.28.14 @ 2:09 pm

One of the things Chryst should do is just do a weekly update when camp starts. It is almost painful to watch his post practice interviews every day to see how many words can be used without saying anything. It would be far better if he just waited until the week of the first game and gave an interview.

Comment by PittMan 07.28.14 @ 2:26 pm

A trial lawyer he isn’t. ha

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 2:28 pm

“Personally I don’t think there is a very big gap in talent between Voytik and Anderson.”

–Really trying to stir the pot and turn up the pageviews, eh?

Comment by NOPE 07.28.14 @ 2:35 pm

This schedule should be perfect for breaking in a new QB.

Only bigtime school in the first 4 games is BC and they lost 90% of their offense. While their defense wasn’t much last year. Letting opponents total over 428 ypg.

They even gave up 34 points to dreadful Syracuse the week after we held them to 16 points.

Other highlites for BC’s defense;
they gave up 34 points to one of the worst teams in D1, New Mexico State (most points the Aggies scored all year),
they gave up 27 points to (3-9)Army,
and they gave up over 520 yds, while getting pummeled by Arizona in their bowl 42-19, it was actually 42-6 before BC scored 2 meaningless Tino-like TD’s in the 4rth Q. One more tino-like than the other with 35 seconds left in the game.

Just a perfect schedule for us this year !

H2P

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 2:43 pm

Whoops I guess Iowa is the 4rth game, with Akron and UVA following them.

Will have to bone up on the Hawkeyes.

They are supposed to be pretty good this year according to some prognosticators.

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 3:24 pm

What’s all this talk about Connor or James.

Connor AND James (or Ibrahim) are the classic “Thunder and Lightning” combination. If the O-Line improves like we think it will, there is no reason we can’t have two 1000 yard rushers and a 1000 yard receiver this season.

BTW Reed – Nice call on Ibrahim. I’m a believer as well. I hope he’s bulked up. 6-1 185 isn’t going to cut it.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 07.28.14 @ 3:48 pm

Guest- I’m skeptical of the fan’s expectations regarding James stepping into a starting and starring role. He might have the talent at this level but as of today no one of us has seen him in college level competition. My point is that why are we fans so willing to jump a FR ahead of three already established and productive RBs with game experience?

Hey! Here’s a bit of trivia for us fans: Who was a PITT QB who nobody thought could play football at all back in 1976? Here is the answer:

“TOM YEWCIC, Quarterback

With Robert Haygood and Matt Cavanaugh sidelined with injuries during the season, the Panthers found themselves in a precarious situation at quarterback. But Yewcic, a Johnstown native, rescued them, stepping into the fire during the Panthers’ 27-6 victory over Louisville that ran their record to 5-0.”

Yewcic also went on to start, and win, more three games after that Louisville relief appearance. The reason I include this is that he was the 3rd string QB on the roster and was a senior walk-on at PITT yet he contributed greatly in our championship season. Funny thing – everyone gives Cavanaugh the credit for that season when he was the 2nd string QB going in and only played about half the games.

So don’t count out Trey Anderson as being capable of filling in for Voytik in case of injury. As said above – he isn’t the little kid brought in by Graham any longer. He’s fully able to hold his own in the passing game.

BTW – here is a great article about Yewcic’s 1976 year and his life afterward in a 1987 P-G edition..

link to news.google.com

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 4:13 pm

Good stuff Reed.

Tom’s best attribute was handing off to Tony D.

Found this on Chris James. The music(?) is garbage but this kid can fly.

link to youtube.com

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 4:18 pm

Emel – I noticed that first James carry was against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 4:22 pm

That’s interesting Reed. Got to be a good thing since they share Heinz with us and we share UPMC in Southside with them.

Will Jame’s breakout game be against the look-a-like Hawkeyes ?

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 4:30 pm

On that same old Pgh Press page:

Navy linebacker Mark Pimpo on Pitt tailback Craig (Ironhead)Heyward: “tackling Heyward is like tacking the USS Iowa.”

We have to sink Iowa come the 4th game of this year !

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 4:39 pm

Emel – when I was stationed on Guam there was a high school football team with the exact same uniform as the Steelers – down to the diamonds on the helmets.

I kind of hated that because, as you can imagine, football in Guam is a huge joke.

Comment by Reed 07.28.14 @ 4:47 pm

Guam eh.

So it doesn’t produce any football players like Somoa.

But they are both part of Steeler Universe(formally Nation), well we know Guam is.

I’ve been reading the whole sports section of that October 26th, 1987 Pgh Press you linked. Kind of fun, reading about days gone by in the world of sports circa the fall of 1987. The NFL games were the first ones that week after the 3 week NFL players strike that year.

And according to the Press’s old $1,000 Weekly Football contest, Pitt was hosting Syracuse the next weekend, while the Pedo’s were hosting the Hillbillies.

More than likely I probably sent a few entries in ! Didn’t win though :-(

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 5:11 pm

“And according to the Press’s old $1,000 Weekly Football contest, Pitt was hosting Syracuse the next weekend”

Pitt +4. Give the points, Emel.

Comment by steve1 07.28.14 @ 5:57 pm

Reed, you’re reading way too much into the praises given Chris James. He won’t be a starter this year unless we’re decimated by injuries. He’ll be lucky to make the two deep regularly unless he is a freshman phenom, but he will play however. And when he plays, his personal mindset will keep the stage from being too big for him.
He will play because he will have put in the time at camp, prepared himself well and earned the right to see the field. Exactly the same route Tyler Boyd took to prove to Coach that he was ready.

James will do the same, that’s why he is here. Chryst promised him the opportunity to contribute if he was willing to prove that he was ready and would put in the time. This kid is all about that and he’ll prove this season, just wait and see.

Comment by Dr. Tom 07.28.14 @ 7:02 pm

Our running backs will be JC and CJ. Any way you spell it they’re gonna be good!

Comment by Panther Fan in Hoopieland 07.28.14 @ 8:26 pm

Speaking of freshmen.. I want to see Avonte Maddox return punts/kickoffs/interceptions/whatever.

Comment by Mailman 07.28.14 @ 8:49 pm

Right steve1 ha

Cusey was pretty good that year, heck they were undefeated, only blemish was a tie against Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

Comment by Emel 07.28.14 @ 8:50 pm

Interesting note…Myles Caragein was added to my hometown high school coaching staff in Clearfield as a defensive assistant. Glad to have a Pitt guy on the staff. I would even go so far as to say NEAT!

Comment by Outlaw 07.28.14 @ 9:22 pm

Caragein was a Dormont kid, played for Keystone Oaks in before going to Pitt

Comment by pittman4ever 07.28.14 @ 9:33 pm

….”played for Keystone Oaks in High school”….

Comment by pittman4ever 07.28.14 @ 9:38 pm

Getting solid Pitt Football graduates into high school football coaching bodes well for the future of Pitt recruiting.

James Conner starting and running down hill will cause smaller LB’s and DB’s to run away from tackling the carrier late in games. I see CJ doing really well in the 4th quarter. Pitt will need to be able to pass the ball successfully or face 8 in the box to jam up the runners before they get started.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 07.28.14 @ 10:32 pm

Dr Tom – you just described every 4* recruit PITT has ever had, and many of just regular recruits.

Unless a true FR in his first camp is a deadbeat then they all are going to put the “blood, sweat and tears” into training camp in order to get some playing time right away. I’d also go so far as to say that Chryst probably promises every good recruit at skill positions that they will have the “opportunity to contribute if he was willing to prove that he was ready and would put in the hard effort…” “Opportunity” being the key word.

That is what good coaches do to motivate young players. Now, he may not do that for lineman or QBs who pretty much know they are going to redshirt to get that growth year under their belts but I’d think he’d be remiss if he’s telling the skilled position recruits that they won’t HAVE A SHOT at playing time in their rookie year.

Also, not sure what you mean by “reading way too much”… We’ve read that James will start and be a star on this blog numerous times and the same thought is repeated regularly on the PITT message boards. My point is the same as yours when you say he won’t play unless there are injuries… which is what I inferred in the article and my comment above.

Here’s a point also – both McCoy and Lewis came in as freshman without real solidified starting RBs to compete against for a starting slot. Granted in ’07 McCoy had a returning Stevens-Howling but LSH wasn’t cut in the mold to be a 12 game starting RB getting 25+ carries a game (in ’06 even without any real talent at RB to compete against LSH only carried the ball an average of 14.8 times a game) I loved LSH and he was productive but McCoy pretty much had a clear shot to the starting job after a few games.

Lewis had no returning RB talent to speak of when he was in summer training camp as a true FR, just Hynoski at FB and Chris Burns who never did much at PITT. Lewis did have Graham as a FR also but we are talking about moving aside established starters to start as a FR. I will say this – after McCoy declared PITT fans were freaking out and I wrote that he was replaceable, specifically because of the way DW ran his offense, that being a ‘plug and play’ RB situation. I don’t think Chryst is there yet with his OL guys but we may see that at PITT very soon.

Now – you and I may have to eat crow if James pulls a McCoy or a Lewis on us – but we’ll be happy campers also. He could do it with his talent and I have nothing against James or the way he play football. I’m glad and proud that he chose PITT but I’m also a ‘show me’ type fan and I temper my ‘grand’ expectations of true FR until they actually play.

Comment by Reed 07.29.14 @ 7:02 am

James will be up to that task, Reed. I would like the taste of crow in this situation. James will see the field and when he does, he’ll show us all that he is ready and worthy of that opportunity as a true Freshman.

Comment by Dr. Tom 07.29.14 @ 12:49 pm

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