One of the first positions football fans look at in determining how good a team is is the Quarterback. That is where the offensive plays begin and his play, good or bad, usually will determine how well the ball is moved up field and how many points are scored.
We have had a long run of QBs on our Pitt teams that looked like they would be fine on paper and some turned out to be OK on the field also. Others never really lived up to the recruiting hype and/or blew it when they had their chances to finally get into the starting position.
Over the last 20 year we have had Tyler Palko, Pat Bostick, Bill Stull, Tino Sunseri, Tom Savage, Chad Voytik and just now ending with Nate Peterman. Not exactly the equivalent to the Yankee’s Murder’s Row of the late 1920s, but then again some came in and played well for us.
But quietly this season, almost on tippy-toes or cats’ paws, Nate Peterman put up a year that is almost unrivaled by any Pitt QB in a very long time. Let’s look at how he stacked up with Pitt’s more recent QBs’ play.
Local boy Tyler Palko was a fan favorite and ascended to the starting role under Walt Harris back in 2003. He had a good arm, tons of football knowledge and moxie enough to satisfy the hard-core and physical-game loving Western PA fans. Pitt was 21-15 when he was starting. Here are Palko’s career stats:
Following Palko we went to another local player in Bill Stull as the starter for 2007. That lasted less than three games until Stull was injured and journeyman QB Kevan Smith replaced him for the Michigan State game. After Smith’s injury 5* recruit Pat Bostick, a true FR, was prematurely but necessarily called into action.
Bostick wasn’t ready to be a starter and it showed in his play as the team went 3-6 over the course of the rest of the season, ending 2007 with a 5-7 record… but beating West Virginia and knocking them out of national championship contention with a 13-9 win in Morgantown. That was sweet and truth be told that was Bostick’s defining moment at Pitt – coupled with a win over Notre Dame later in his spotty career.
This is the career stat sheet for Pat Bostick. Greatest kid in the world but never really panned out for us in the long run.
After Bostick we rebounded with Stull for the 2008 & 2009 seasons, now playing again after sitting out that ’07 season. Stull’s career at Pitt spread out over five years but only in those last two did he make a real impact in the W/L column when we went 19-7.
Following Stull we had the QB everybody seemed to love to hate. Tino Sunseri took over the starting job in 2010, Wannstedt’s last season, and kept it for a full three years. Even with three different HCs in Wannstedt, Graham and Chryst, with the accompanying three different offensive coordinators, he remained very productive in his play. The problem was that his decision making and play under pressure didn’t rise to the good level that his stats show.
Once Sunseri departed Paul Chryst decided to skip over 4* recruit Chad Voytik who was slated to start in his rsFR year of 2013. Chryst instead brought in strong-armed transfer QB Tom Savage who had been out of competition for a couple years. Savage was a good stop-gap measure for us as he stabilized an offense that hadn’t performed all that well the year before. He went 7-6 for us that season.
Then Chad Voytik got his shot at the starting job and did a serviceable job. In some spots he played well in others he showed first year jitters and played less well. In his only year as a starter he led the team to a 6-7 season.
Over the offseason between the 2014 and 2015 years Pat Narduzzi and his OC took a page out of Paul Chryst’s book and lured ex-Tennessee QB Nate Peterman to Pitt to finish out his last two years of eligibility. It was a controversial move in a lot of ways because fans and the media assumed that Voytik would remain the starter and build on his decent 2014 year.
But once the 2015 season’s fall camp started it was evident that Peterman was brought in to fully compete for the main role. Voytik’s play in camp faltered; Peterman showed a bigger and more accurate arm and after the incumbent played, rather poorly, the first two games of the ’15 year Voytik was sat down and Peterman has held the reins of the offense ever since.
Peterman is an interesting type of player in that he doesn’t do anything so well he makes you sit up suddenly and take big notice. Not like Tom Savage’s downfield passing, or Tyler Palko’s scrambles or Chad Voytik’s running ability.
But what Peterman had going for him was a good combination of all those things – in moderation as it were. He was accurate on the short and intermediate passes, threw out patterns well and when his OC called deep plays (mostly with Matt Canada in 2016) he showed he could get the ball downfield quickly and with decent accuracy.
He could also run the ball surprisingly well as shown by his 172 carries for 525 yards (3.1 ypc) and 5 TDs over his two years. However this is a very interesting tidbit – if you take away his minus “sacks allowed” yardage it shows that when he kept the ball and ran forward or was in a called QB running play he gained 6.0 ypc. Get that folks? When he meant to run the ball he picked up very nice yardage on average.
What jumps out at me, and why I say his last year was a “Quiet Storm” is that even with the handcuffs put on him in the beginning of the year – when Narduzzi and Canada publicly stated that the running game was going to be dominant and it was, Peterman slowly but surely progressed game-to-game to finish out with one of the strongest years a Pitt QB has had in the last two decades.
Prior to this season I wrote that I’d bet readers a beer that Peterman would have a better season than Tyler Palko’s very good 2006 season and here’s how they stacked up. Note that I think the key to gauging a QB’s impact and success in the offense revolves mainly around his passing efficiency rate. I think I won that bet.
PETERMAN V PALKO
Peterman barely inches out Palko in my opinion although that 68.3% completion rate of Palko’s is damned good. Palko’s team had a 6-6 year that season and missed a bowl game; Peterman was 8-5 this year with a bowl loss.
That is Peterman as compared to only Palko – but I’ll say that Nate Peterman’s career play at Pitt stacks up pretty darn well with historical Pitt QBs also. Here is a modified table showing our best career QB ratings – interesting stuff to review and you’ll notice Peterman’s career 151.1 rating is right near the top:
PITT QB CAREER LEADERS
What I didn’t realize is that Peterman is at the top or close to it in almost every statistical category listed; #1 in yards per game; #1 QB rating and #3 in yards per attempt. Those are all important productions.
Peterman will be a hard act to follow especially for the supposed 2017 starter Thomas MacVitte which is why Narduzzi replicated his personnel move of 2015 and grabbed another transfer QB in Max Browne.
Fans didn’t know what to expect back in 2015 when Peterman showed up but were were, I believe, very pleasantly surprised. This last week we just had transfer Browne arrive on campus. His will be a short time at Pitt with only one year of NCAA eligibility left to play. But we need that QB position to produce this coming year and we need it to really show up given the state of our diminished OL and RBs.
If Browne can replicate Peterman’s 2016 year we’ll be sitting pretty.