A Look Back; Losing a Star

We have been reading for eight months how terrible our passing game will be without our star WR coming back to play.

I am getting very sick of hearing every pundit in the college football world asking “How does Pitt replace a 2nd round draft choice?”  because it truly means nothing.    The real question should be “How does Pitt replace the production that the 2nd round draft pick had last year?” and that my friends is a whole damn different subject.

Can we finally put to rest the ridiculous idea that just because a player was drafted into the NFL it automatically means the kid was a fantastic player for us the year before? Note the ‘year before being’ the key phrase here.

I truly don’t care what round a Pitt player was drafted in or if he was even drafted at all.  All I care about when looking at the next season’s team is what exactly did that departing player do for us and what do we do about it?

My case in point here is obviously Tyler Boyd and some of you aren’t going to like what I have to say.  Mainly because I don’t think Boyd did all that well last year and as such isn’t a great loss at all… and quite possibly we’ll be better off without him

First off, college football is the most romantically driven sports the U.S. has.  These young men are ‘our guys’ and who are having the same college student experience that we had… going to the same university on the same campus, going into the same buildings, living in the same dorm rooms maybe and drinking in the same bars – we have that human connection to these young men that makes us care about them.

But it also makes us over-inflate what the player has meant to the team.  In Tyler Boyd’s case when you look at his total body of work you see that he was a great player to have in a Pitt uniform.  Let’s look at his records: Boyds Records.png

Pretty impressive, and he earned each of them.  But then lets take a look at Boyd’s 2015 season and compare that production to other great receivers Pitt has had in the last year of their careers here.

Why I point out the last years is because of what I stated above – the only thing that matters about predicting whether or not we can build a passing game that takes the place of one with Boyd in it is to look at what we lost from the year before… not Boyd’s better 2013 and 2014 years, but his 2015.

This table shows our last four star receivers in their last seasons; what the passing game for that season was overall and then what the Pitt passing game did the year after they left.

If you’ll remember every single time a star WR has left, or a star RB, QB etc… for that matter, we Pitt fans have wailed and gnashed our teeth in worry.  But here is a table that should set your mind at ease a bit.  The blue highlights are what we did better the next year in that category; the red is where we did worse.

Pass Clip

As you can see with the exception of trying to follow the wonderful Larry Fitzgerald we have done better in almost every statistic the year after a star WR left. Sorry – but he left a void with his spectacular last season that we weren’t going to replace with any WRs.

But on the flip side look at Boyd’s yards per catch which is the most important stat a receiver has aside from maybe TD catches.  His was a paltry 10.2 ypc, really very poor,  and you’ll be surprised to see that he was only 5th among Pitt players in double digit receptions:

Boyd ypc

Over this off season and now on the verge of camp opening  I hear the complaint that ‘our receivers haven’t shown anything in the past years so how can they be any good’ and to that I’ll say the following  In Larry Fitzgerald’s last year the WR who was the primary target to replace him in the next season was Greg Lee.  His stat line as Fitz’s understudy as compared to Boyd’s understudy last year Dontez Ford is this:

lee ford 2

 

After Baldwin left we had street and Shanahan step up and produce.  This happens every year for college teams all over the country and Pitt is no different.  But we have seen that, Fitzgerald aside, no receivers on our team are irreplaceable.

I truly think we’ll not only see an equaling to Boyd’s 2015 production… and again, his last year’s production is the only one that matters in this conversation, but we’ll be better in the passing game over all and possibly by a large margin.

I’ve a standing bet for a pre- or post- game beer that our 2016 QBs (think Peterman here) will better Tyler Palko’s very good 2006 year when he threw for 2871 yards and 25 TDs. That’s (+) 384 yards and (+) 4 TDs we have to make up for reed to stay drunk the whole game weekends.

If that happens it is not so much what I think about Peterman’s skills but the faith I have that the receiving corps to step up and produce. Because we are WR University right?

So long Tyler, good luck and make a lot of money.  But now is the time to turn our attention to the players on the 2016 roster.  Like our next star WR Dontez Ford. Watch how he got that 19.4 YPC average… it’s called yards after the catch and he’s good at it:

 

41 thoughts on “A Look Back; Losing a Star

  1. When a QB has a sure thing like Boyd he tends to rely too much on that one receiver.Look how our passing game to the tight ends dropped off last year with Peterman a new QB and a new OC. They knew they had a sure thing with Boyd and he got the preference.This also made us predictable in the passing game. Hopefully this will open up and go downfield more this year. I agree with Reed’s stats and am looking forward to a different passing game this year that will yield more big plays, more TDs.

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  2. Spot on Reed about Ford’s accomplishments already and on his future potential. Ford will have a 1000+ yard season if he remains healthy all season.

    The #2 WR spot will be the place for speculation. Challingsworth, Tripton, Henderson, true freshmen Flowers, Matthews, & Ffrench, let us not forget our JC guy Araujo-Lopes or also ran Wuestner coming back from injury. What a stable of players to sort through to find a go to #2 guy. Maybe even two or three guys all get their reps to put up stats on the board. The cupboard is full at the WR position, no worries.

    Yeah, I’ve ignored Jester Weah, nothing personal on this snub, but the guy just hasn’t proven that he can catch the damn ball in a game. It’s like me on the golf practice range, stripe my drives right down the middle for 10 minutes warming up and can’t keep the frickin ball in the fairway off the tee when on the course. It’s a mental thing, and I suck at golf because of it, and he does too at WR for the same reason. I’d be happy for Weah to prove me wrong though, but I’m not holding my breath.

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    1. — @ Dr. Tom however, I think the reason so many Pitt fans are so adamant hoping for Jester Weah to break out stems from a clear source. You can really get the vibe that Pat Narduzzi is pushing for Jester Weah hard. Matt Canada probably came in — only getting to see Jester Weah’s 6’3”, 220lb frame and his amazing athleticism in gym clothes — and no doubt said, “Who the heck is this guy??”

      —- Pitt fans didn’t just create some weird ‘Hype Bubble’ for Jester Weah — Pat Narduzzi’s enthusiasm and hopes for Weah really have been obvious.

      And I know this is almost cruel after Dontez Ford played his heart out all year last year, caught everything thrown his way, and fought like a rabid-bull after he caught the ball to get more yards….but in the end BOTH Coaches and Fans are always going to want the guy with the unbelievable “Potential” and physical talent to overtake the lesser talented guy.

      I see Dontez Ford as a Marques Colston-type big, strong, (6’2”, 210) possession slot receiver who can get open and has sure hands. I think Dontez Ford would absolutely flourish in this position, and I think if he played a pure possession-slot role this year he could even find an NFL niche.

      ***** But Dontez Ford as a pure receiver is Eerily similar to trying to force Menasseh Garner (remember him? Same size and skill set as Ford) to the outside. Dontez Ford just don’t have the ‘Pop’ out there to scare any decent Corner in man coverage.

      @ Dr. Tom One Moment from last season ensured that Pat Narduzzi was going to fight with every breath to force Jester Weah to the trough, then try to force him to drink the water no matter how hard he kicked! Does anyone remember the Louisville game at Heinz last year??

      Yes, a few receivers caught some long touchdowns against a very talented defense with great defensive backs. But on one play Jester Weah showed a flash that was Amari Cooper, “rarefied air” level pure talent. Inside the 10 yard line I believe, Weah is matched 1-on-1 vs. Louisville’s #1 corner, who is in press. Weah dwarfs the corner in both height and burliness. At the snap, the corner tries to play press man-on-man. Jester Weah takes a few steps, stutters, then….BOOM! Weah goes from 0 to 60 in a snap and is immediately in the back of the endzone, and the corner sits there with his ankles broken before the tries to “recover”……….Yeah, Weah dropped the perfectly thrown pass from Peterman while wide-open like a pee-wee player might…and Peterman’s “No Freakin’ WAY!” reaction was priceless, but the point is —– Jester Weah showed me that moment that if he gets his $hit together he has the potential to be the best Da*m Wide Receiver in the Country.

      You root of course always for the tough, Steady, Sturdy, and Reliable guys….but if you see some guy on the golf course totally missing fairways with his driver….but he’s driving those misses 330 yards every single time with a totally effortless swing…you’re always going to want to see if this player can just hone-in those skills. Because you know if they do they just might be GREAT.

      The rest of our upperclassmen wide receivers are not flashy but they’re consistent. 275 yards off the tee, solid strokes, but not flashy. Jester Weah needs to get it together for his Pitt teammates. Narduzzi and Canada need to show him the light and unleash him on the ACC. He’s just too Big, Too Fast, and too Explosive for him to waste his career because of yips and nerves.

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  3. Pitt 60 brings up a good point too. The passing game isn’t just the WR position. Or doff gets to be the go to guy at TE this season and he has been $$$$ when it absolutely positively has to be in the end zone overnite. Then if Canada is serious about utilizing multiple RBs at the same time in his playbook, he needs look no further than Ibrahim and Conner for RB pass plays.

    It will be good seeing Ri Rachid back in the game, he can definitely catch a football. And if you want to consider one scary proposition, how would you like to be a defending DB coming up to challenge James Conner one on one when he gets the ball tossed his way in the flats coming out of the backfield? May God have mercy on his soul.

    It will be fun watching how Canada develops his passing game around this veteran OL he has at his disposal and what should be a shove it down your throat running game.

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  4. OK, here’s my deal. It seems like I’m always agreeing with Reed. You know that great minds comment. For the life of me I could never understand why PITT fans didn’t really want to give Ford his dues. His only fault was not being thrown the football enough. We can blame the greatness of TB or maybe Peterman but I blamed Chaney. Glad to see him gone. PITT’s passing game should be better this year with a new OC and a better Peterman but what will really make the passing game is the offensive line. The run game should be formidable witch obviously opens up a more diverse passing attack. That’s how it works. PITT’s offense looks to be better balanced despite what everyone thinks will be a mainly running team. Isn’t that what we want the opposition to think? Watch PITT roll baby!

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  5. Okay, I’ll disagree. Statistics are just that. We can never duplicate the exact same team, play callers and the exact same defenses, opponents and strategies. Statistics are fun and all as they promote conversation.

    So will we have more yards receiving this year? Will we have more passing attempts? Will we be losing by 20 points at halftime and have to throw the ball on nearly every down to get back into a game (God, I hope not)? Will 24 and the stable of running backs run crazy good to the point we only throw the ball 15 times a game? Who knows. The only statistic I care about are wins.

    Are 7 wins this year, better than 8 wins last year.

    I think it is easier for us to compare athletes. Are we bigger this year? Faster? Do we look more prepared this year than last? I hope our receiver unit is stronger but how do we judge it. I look to speed, size, desire to block and an ability to catch the ball and hold it. I hope we are better. Without 23 we should be better at blocking on the outside. I will give you that one for sure.

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  6. I think Boyd’s average yards per catch were down last year because he was thrown to a lot to pick up short 3rd downs. I will be interesting to see what Peterman does this season when he has to look over the whole field for a receiver instead of just eyeballing Boyd.

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    1. Matt Canada is going to run the ball a ton this year. We will have some 3rd down and 5 or 6 to go, we will run the ball when we don’t make some of those, posters will be questioning his play calling and wanting him to throw the ball more often.

      Canada is going to run the ball 65-70% of the time this year.

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  7. Reed, of all the ridiculous statements you have made IMO stating that Boyd, who has most of the pertinent Pitt career receiving marks, is not a big loss takes the cake. Just because that piece of crap of an OC we had last year was clueless doesn’t mean Boyd won’t be missed.

    Let’s see … Boyd has 2 terrific years as a frosh and soph and then a new OC comes in and Boyd has his worst year. Who’s at fault? The fact that the Pitt offense ended up ranked about 80th (down over 40 slots) from the year before), is certainly not the WR’s fault. It was the fault of an OC who pushed his own offense even though his players were more productive when using another offense.

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    1. @wwb:

      Reed explained that he wasn’t interested in just the player, but the production. Pitt does not have a single player to match Boyd, but overall, with a platoon of different kinds of WRs as well as a new coaching approach and a better rest of the offense, his production certainly can be replaced.

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  8. This offense might be far worse without the reliability Boyd making all those short-yardage catches on third down. Who steps up? I hope Orndoff does but last year he had a big third-down drop versus Notre Dame and that can’t happen this season when he’s a senior.

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  9. The Bengals using a 2nd round pick on Boyd was moronic. If they didnt he lasts till mid to late 3rd. They have no clue in Cincy.

    Boyd’s numbers were blah and the year he did well they threw to him every pass play.

    Passing game will be way better with him gone. I still stand by he is out of league in 3 years.

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    1. Upitt, I finally figured out who you remind me of. You are the Pitt athletic equivalent to Don the Con Trump is in national politics!
      Boyd is going to play out just fine with the Bengals, so you were wrong and Boyd went way earlier than the 4th round. Big deal, get over it.

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    1. imo, PITT should cash in those ring side seats (club) for fans that want to cheer their team on.and not sit on their hands.

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  10. 1st US Gold Medal in Rio … Ginny Thrasher, 19 year old WVU soph. No, couch burning is not an Olympic sport … yet. Air rifle is

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  11. I wonder if we will have a real logo at Heinze Field? Or will Mrs. Jones 3rd grade class from Carrick have art class there on Friday afternoon!

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  12. UPitt if the Carrick 3rd graders are cheaper the Rooneys will go with them. Dont forget the end zones where diagonal stripes ala the 50’s is less chalk/paint. Pathetic. SOS preceded SOP and for a reason, the Rooneys were and are cheap.

    Roger Kingdom came to Pitt as a WR until he looked at his ability to catch the ball and wisely dedicated himself to becoming a Great Olympic champion and world class hurdler. All the talk or WeeeAaaahs moves, build, etc may be true but normal rational fans dreaming of Bobby Hays makes me shake my head. NPs reaction to that move by WeeAaaah in Louisville game was due to WeeeAaahs dropping the ball – didnt play again. I have it figured out what Dark and Reed see through adoring, glazed-over eyes – Nate “The Man of Steel” will roll out, WeeAaah wide open at the one yard line, NP will leap into the air, fly through the air like a super hero to WeeAah at the one, hand the ball to WeeeAaah. Beautiful, superman supernatural, till WeeeAaah drops the hand off. I hope he makes me eat 4 and 20 baked in a pie every week but could we hold our dreams in check just a bit for someone who hasn’t caught a ball in a game in several years {:high school” ? 🙂 Come on Monday!!! Hail to Pitt and all of you.

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    1. Touche……Touche. Hahaha —- WeeAaaah 🙂 🙂

      And who knows maybe Dontez Ford is faster and can accelerate quicker than given credit for.

      Regardless NFL and College Football is commencing and camp is here, so we get to enjoy how everything will play out. Who knows who’ll step up!!

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    2. ^^^^ But I mean…. Jester Weah has been practicing all Winter and Summer with the ‘Ones’ at #1 Split-Out…and Jester and Nate P. are ‘Boys’ — we’ll see, we’ll see how this plays out come Fall Camp + Official Real-Football.

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  13. Gotta say…once the season starts, the reply-to format will suck. It’s okay right now because there aren’t that many comments, but I like to pick up where I left off the last time i looked at the comments. Who out there wants to re-scan all of the comments every time they view to see if someone responded to someone else?

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  14. Dr Tom (@11:03),
    Interesting how you squeezed in political jargon on the pittpov. But really, calling Trump a “con” when you look at the person he’s running against is more than comical!
    Appreciate the humor Doc. H2 P

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  15. I’m changing the comments display again, last time hopefully. Please use the commenters name you are replying to right up front so we can follow your back and forth conversations… like this:

    @wbb – you ignorant slut. (Never gets old)

    Wbb – you seem to lie in wait to pounce as soon as you see something that you disagree with even in the least. Please reread the article above and notice these phrases…

    “In Tyler Boyd’s case when you look at his total body of work you see that he was a great player to have in a Pitt uniform. Let’s look at his records. Pretty impressive, and he earned each of them”

    “the only thing that matters about predicting whether or not we can build a passing game that takes the place of one with Boyd in it is to look at what we lost from the year before… not Boyd’s better 2013 and 2014 years, but his 2015.”

    We’ll disagree on whether or not we can overcome Boyd’s loss this season based on the production of the receivers this season. But I am a firm believer that what have you done for me lately is the key phrase here. This article wasn’t a referendum on Boyd’s talents… it was saying that we’ll be able to make up the loss of Player X’s production because it wasn’t all that great last season.

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  16. Good column Reed. I like Dr Tom’s analogy!! It’s why I can serve bullets in the corners in warm ups but during the game…..

    Dare I say I kind of agree with UPitt…kind of… I was not a Boyd fan after that Houston Bowl game when he acted like such an asshole. I think some of that attitude showed on the field last year. What I can’t agree with is that there’s a lack of talent. I think TB is a gamer and just catches damn near everything thrown to him. I think he will stick in the NFL for that reason. I see him as a possession receiver and not the big play guy he was for us.

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  17. Just got back from a lengthy trip abroad and clicked on the PittBlather.com only to find this link. All I can say is: WOW! Great job Reed! It will take me a while to find my way around Pitt POV; I found how to post and that’s progress. I see some familiar names… 🙂

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  18. Addition by subtraction. Pitt will score more without him. And they have some dynamic players as WR’s that will step up and shine. Boyd took all the spotlight. The QB is the most important player on O. And we have a good one with a year under his belt. I think we’ll see 60/40 on pass/run. 40/60 once Nate graduates and we’re back to grooming the QB that will take us to national glory…the Cheese Bowl in Green Bay. 🙂

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  19. @ Dark Knight, like I said above, nothing would make me happier than a Naduzzi/Canada exorcism of the demons that prevent Jester WeeAaah from holding on to a football. WeeAaah has a new lease on life with Canada on board as our new OC. Jester apparently has already proven himself as a great “practice” player in the Spring and he impressed our new OC with his abilities.

    Too bad that is like the golf pro observing those striped drives down the middle of the practice range. In a real game, Jester WeeAaah has caught Z E R O passes. That is a perfect statistic. Perfectly awful. It’s a mental thing. You can coach technique, you can increase strength and stamina with good conditioning regimes, but dealing with the psychological aspects of your athletes is a completely different challenge.

    I don’t know if Pitt has access to sports psychologists to attend to this aspect of a players performance but that is where our coaches need to invest their time to improve WeeAaah’s “in game” results. It is a much larger issue than the WR coach just slapping Jester up side the helmet admonishing him to “get your head in the game”. Where is a guy like Bob Rotella when you need him?

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  20. @ Pittman4ever, sorry for the slip up of utilizing the nickname applied to the Republican nominee for President by those in the know. It was not meant as a political commentary. And just to show how impartial & politically neutral I am, I assume in your response that you were referring to “Crooked Hillary” as the person Don the Con is running against although he also is also running against two other opponents as well. See, I can mutually denigrate both major candidates equally with such immature labels. Yes it would be “comical” if it was just another TV reality show that we could tune in at our leisure for our daily dose of required sophomoric drama. But alas, our current political conundrum is anything but funny. Crooked Hillary has never actually used Don the Con’s nickname in public against him as of yet, although it fits his profile, since up to this point in the campaign, the Democrats have elected not to reduce themselves to getting down in the mud to sling name calling nickname insults back and forth with the individual that has already claimed permanent residence there in the mud pit. However I do find it ironic that at the mere mention of the moniker for Me. Trump that the retort is to refer back to Crooked Hillary. A perfect utilization of deflective politics. Yes, I must concur, Crooked Hillary has a closet filled with skeletons, but that does not exonerate Don the Con from consistently demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that he is a pathological liar. It makes no difference to me who agrees or disagrees with this assessment of the man, the facts speak for themselves. So no political parody was intended. It simply is what it is. Hillary is crooked and Don is a Con. What it actually is,,,,,,,????? It’s a sad state of affairs for our nation.

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  21. Dr. Tom,
    (From11:47 just above)..
    Fair enough my friend! Now on to more things Pitt. (and it’s great to have a place to go like pov where there is no Hillary/Donald).
    I think Canada will exploit what the other teams D is giving us. Hence, some games 60% run, some games 60% pass and some games 50/50

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  22. A great OC should be well versed in the Art of counter punching. No doubt Pitt will be a run first team with the weapons that they will have at RB and the veteran OL that will be clearing the way for them. The point comes however when that game plan gets halted by 8 to 10 in the box that as you say Pittman4ever you take what they give you. I really feel, as Reed does, that this team’s overall passing stats will be as good if not better than last season’s. The interesting developments to watch transpire will be Orndoff now being the exclusive go to TE on pass plays and also who comes along in fall camp to emerge as the starting #2 WR. My bet is on Flowers. I like his height and he seems to get good body position on the defender in his routes. Henderson is intriguing as well in the slot. I could see him in the same slot sweep play that Boyd ran effectively last year, but IMO, Henderson is shiftier than Boyd is.

    I loved Boyd, but I must agree with the feelings of the others who feel he won’t be missed. I’m self aware that I suffer from perpetual preseason optimism but I really think that this offense is going to be really formidable this season.

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  23. MM, you are in a good place to keep us abreast of OC Chaney’s work at Georgia this year. As happy as I am that he moved on, I am shocked that he got a gig that quickly back in the SEC.

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  24. I think Boyd did one thing with a lot more frequency than the rest of the Pitt receivers the last two seasons…he beat his coverage and made himself an easy target. That translates into more confidence from the QB and more throws his way.

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