Now that the season is over I though we should take a look back at some predictions we fans made before the 2016 season started and see if what we thought would happen actually did happen.
One key issue I wrote about in detail was that I thought our offense wouldn’t miss our star wide receiver Tyler Boyd as much as some fans and media writers thought we would.
The phrase I used to describe our receiving corps last season was “Boyd was the elephant in the room“, meaning that when when Jim Chaney was drawing up his offensive game plans or when Boyd was out on the field the main focus pointed directly to Boyd in the passing game. He was the turbo fan that sucked the air from the other receivers on the roster.
As well it should have given the great season he had for us previously in 2014. To recap, here is his statistical production for that season: 78 catches for 1,261 yards (16.2 ypc) with 8 TDs and a long of 53 yards. Wow, pretty fine year and no wonder why we all felt he would be the prime target in ’15.
But let’s remember that in 2014 Paul Chryst was the HC and Joe Rudolph was our offensive coordinator… with Chad Voytik passing the ball and a healthy James Conner churning out 1,765 yards and 26 (!) TDs alongside Boyd. With those numbers that great running game really helped out our passing game .
But something happened along the way to derail those very big expectations we had for Boyd in ’15. Most notably was the change over in the coaching staff with Chryst and Rudolph leaving and Pat Narduzzi as HC and his bringing along Jim Chaney as the OC.
On top of that Narduzzi and Chaney weren’t happy with Voytik under center and elevated newly transferred Nate Peterman into the starting role. So there were big differences between the two years. Not the last was that after that sterling sophomore season Boyd had he was being doubled teamed almost constantly in 2015.
All that combined together and show a rather precipitous drop in some production categories from Tyler Boyd in his last year at Pitt. Here are those 2015 stats set alongside his previous two years:
First things first – Honestly, every one of Boyd’s years at Pitt were good ones, but the preseason question was if Pitt’s offense would miss Boyd’s receiving production in 2016. I said I didn’t believe we would and I think the final results bear that out.
In the table above we see that he fell off in yards per game by almost 20 yards; that’s a big difference. But what really jumps out is his large dip in the all-important yards per catch were he went from a bit above average in his SO year at 16.2 to a very poor 10.2 the year after.
Which is why I thought we’d make that up rather easily and wrote so. I did that for a few reasons. First was that Dontez Ford had a truly excellent 19.2 yards per catch in ’15 and I thought he replicate that – it didn’t happen.
But I also felt that Peterman’s second year as a starter would mean something because of game experience and that Jim Chaney’s departure, taking along with him his addiction to Tyler Boyd, would open up the passing game for our other receivers who hadn’t had a chance to show their stuff when Boyd was here.
Here are two interesting stat tables – this shows the distribution of the completed passes between last year and this season. Take a look at how many more receivers had over 15 catches this year compared to last. It went from only three to six and that was all because Boyd wasn’t here:
What I didn’t see clearly was Jester Weah coming into his own in such a big way. He put up numbers that is some ways totally overshadowed Boyd’s 2015 output. Most noticeably is his yards per catch where Boyd had only 10.2 yards per reception and Weah had an amazing 24.2. That along with the four more TDs by Weah and the distribution to the wider group really support the answer to the original question of if Boyd was replaceable or not.
I remember when I first wrote the article asking if Boyd would be all that missed some other media writers jumped on me for even thinking that. But at the time I was making the point that Boyd’s 2015 (that stand-alone year only) wasn’t very good overall and I felt it was even detrimental to the passing game due to Chaney’s insistence of looking at Boyd first second and last on the passing game.
Note that this isn’t a negative look at Tyler Boyd by any means. He was certainly a star player for us and did great things at Pitt. But in college football especially no player is irreplaceable not matter how much the fans love him and want to think the world stops turning as soon as he leaves the team.
Well, the world didn’t stop and our passing game was truly much better without Boyd’s huge influence on the coaching staff and the QB’s post-snap decision-making. It made things much easier for Peterman to know that he had all the receiving weapons at his disposable rather that one huge target and two afterthoughts.
Now looking at the 2017 season we see this situation in reverse. We’ll have the receiving corps in place but will be replacing a star at QB.