NCAA FOOTBALL: Boyd hopes to emerge for Pitt
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst has found plenty of answers halfway through training camp.
Tom Savage is the starting quarterback. James Conner looks like a starter at running back and even the job of kicker has been effectively decided with the presence of freshman Chris Blewitt.
But one question — a pretty big one — remains.
Who will Savage throw the ball to other than senior Devin Street?
Enter Tyler Boyd, arguably the gem of Chryst’s 2013 recruiting class. The former Clairton High School star has taken a major step forward during camp after a standout prep career that included winning three state titles.
Boyd has emerged from a crowded field after Ronald Jones, who compiled 24 receptions over the past two years, was suspended for the entire 2013 season for a violation of team rules. Jones’ suspension left Ed Tinker as the only receiver besides Street with any semblance of experience. In other words, the door was left wide open for Boyd to climb up the depth chart.
It’s an opportunity Boyd has clutched with both hands. After entering camp as a question mark, he is the leading candidate to start next to Street when Pitt begins ACC play on Labor Day night against No. 11 Florida State.
“Every time they say first team, I’m in there,” Boyd said. “I’m not trying to say I’m the first starter yet, I’m just getting reps with the first so I’m just going to keep going and get better and better.”
Boyd’s biggest concern entering camp was dealing with the more arduous practice schedule. He has been seasoned for the grind, though, with some guidance from Street, who has real aspirations of being selected in the 2014 NFL Draft.
“I’m trying to see everything (Street’s) doing,” Boyd said. “I’m watching his steps, his reads, his blocking schemes.”
From the first day of camp, Street, who had 975 receiving yards and five touchdowns last year, expressed a firm belief in Boyd’s abilities.
“I think he’s definitely going to contribute for us,” Street said.
Street is 28 receptions away from becoming the program’s all-time leader, and has grown into a reliable source of information, on and off the field for the whole team.
“If he keeps leading me,” Boyd said, “I’m going to keep following.”
Chryst has noticed. With an open mind since Day 1, the second-year coach has not been afraid to take chances with the Panthers. Pitt went 6-7 in Chryst’s first season, though the Panthers won four of their last seven games.
“He’s continuing to earn the right to get more reps,” Chryst said of Boyd. “I love the progress that he’s been making. I think he’s done a great job of learning what to do.
“Our focus has been on finding out if a guy can give you consistent production.”
So far, so good. Boyd’s done enough to continue to work with the starters and earn the trust of his quarterback.
In fact, Savage and Boyd have connected for multiple big plays during practice. During one recent scrimmage, Boyd turned a pair of long-yardage situations into big gains.
“I’m not surprised that he’s acclimated quickly,” Chryst said. “But I certainly appreciate it.”