The player who made us forget about the loss of Tyler Boyd is returning in peak form for next season’s round of football games. rsSR WR Jester Weah closed the door rather firmly on the question of who was going to be able to replace Boyd with his superb 2016 season. Boyd’s early departure worried us fans – it didn’t seem to bother Weah one bit.
Granted Boyd missed the first game in 2015 for disciplinary reasons then had a sub-par season (for him) afterward and but within a few games last year we were completely satisfied that our receiving corp was indeed better suited for a new OC’s offense than the previous year.
Right before last season’s fall camp I had written that I personally didn’t think we’d miss Tyler Boyd much at all in the ’16 season because he just hadn’t been productive as he had in the past in 2015. Chris Peak alluded to my saying that as “totally ridiculous“. “Hah“, I say. (Chris is 99% right on the money usually but I think I was correct in this one).
Boyd had a lot of receptions but his yards per catch average dropped to only 10.2 in ’15 and with that he had only six TDs. We saw a true football example of the ‘elephant in the room’ disappearing when he left us and thus Peterman had more receivers to use as primary targets… even in the fewer attempts he had passing.
Part of that reliance on Boyd was the fact that old OC Jim Chaney was joined at the hip to him. He wanted him to be the primary, secondary and tertiary targets on almost every pass play. Matt Canada came in and didn’t have that problem, if that isn’t too strong a word for it.
What we saw with Canada’s idea of the passing game was the use of more and different types of receivers using different types of routes. Even though Canada didn’t call for the deep ball all that much Peterman’s 2016 yards per completion average was much higher than his previous one – a difference between 11.4 yards and 15.2 yards is the difference between 92nd nationally and 4th nationally, which is where Peterman landed in that category at the close of last season. That then resulted in more TDs thrown and those seven extra TDs passing made a huge difference for us given how poorly our defense played compared to 2015.
The table below is what our returning receivers did last season (Boyd’s last year stats are on top for comparison). I think the comparison between Weah and Boyd is rather fascinating. Boyd had 252% more catches yet only 56 more yards, 10.3 more ypg and four less TDs.
Boyd was certainly still productive his last year but Weah was more productive in different ways. Interesting. What that did for us was it gave our offense the ability to weather Boyd’s departure and have an even better passing game.
You can see that right off the bat we have four experienced performers returning in the WR corps.
We have JR Quadree Henderson; his reception production at 11.2 ypc was a bit under a normal WR’s average but that was affected by his being given 60 carries as a rusher. That approach may not change either this year due to the effectiveness of that outstanding 10.5 yards per carry he racked up as a running back.
It would be hard to put that aside and throw more to him when you have other receivers who can step in and take some away of his pass opportunities with good results also.
I’d like to see Henderson line up in the slot receiver position more this season and get the ball on short crossing patterns – we didn’t see that much last season and with his speed that could be extremely effective.
Or Hell… just sling him in lining up behind the FB on some run packages through the interior line of scrimmage with George Aston leading the way. In college short backs can be extremely effective – can anyone say “Dion Lewis?
Lewis was 5’8″ and 195… Henderson is 5’8″ and 190 and probably even a bit stronger now. I’d venture to say that Henderson is faster than Lewis was at Pitt also. This is how you find those true breakout running backs who come out of nowhere for huge yardage totals. It would be a bold move but why not try it?
I think Mathews ends up in that WR2 position opposite Weah. Why? Because between Weah’s 6’3″ frame on one side and Mathews 6’4″ on the other and both kids being speedy – that makes up for a lot of QB error on deeper passes.
SO Aaron Mathews (a singular ‘t’ by the way) will really get his fair share of passes and do some great things this year. Even though he and Tipton had only 12 and 6 passes respectively they are intermediate and deep threats and, depending if Max Browne’s arm is as strong as some say it is, they could be on the nice end of some long throws.
We heard Matthews name called mostly because of his excellent special teams play last year but he is 6’4″ and 195 so he’ll have the reach to get up in the air to high point some passes. Maybe we can call up Clemson’s WR coach and ask him to come over and drill our guys in that deep sideline alley-oop play for a few days.
I think we’ll see rsSO Tre’ Tipton, at 6’o” & 190 (although I think that is a “Chad Voytik 6’0″ ” meaning he’s shorter) get more playing time behind Weah and Mathews as the season goes on.
Then we have the mysterious SO Maurice Ffrench – a WR used exclusively as a running back last year and who paid out with 12 carries for 127 yards (10.2 ypc!) and 2 TDs and wore a RB’s number in #25. I like his speed but at 5’11 and 185 I’m thinking put 20 pounds on him and keep running him out of the back field.
As for the new-new comers we have three solid wide receivers recruited in this year’s class. One is a legacy in Darian Street – Devon’s little brother then we went into Florida and got two speedsters in Dontavious Butler and Michael Smith.
Street and Butler are both projects with middling offers – Butler had only NC State as a Power 5 school; Street had none.
But Michael Smith might be the gem of the offensive recruiting class overall. We snatched him from the claws of Notre Dame (take that Kelly) and at 6’2″ and 205 lbs he’s built ready to go into action.
This HS highlight reel is interesting – the first two plays show Smith with power, speed and then downfield pattern speed where he out runs a closing DB. I don’t think we’ll see any of the rookie WRs get real playing time this season unless we get hit with the injury bug but QBs MacVitte and Pickett must be pretty happy seeing Smith come onboard.
Note: I drove up to Hershey yesterday and had lunch with Rick Caldwell (Erie Express) for a semi-business meeting regarding the POV Golf Outing. Guys, I have to tell you it is going to be a class act all-around and we are truly going to have a blast. That is because Rick is doing all the arranging and not me. if I was doing it then it would be Putt-Putt, warm beer and cold sandwiches.
There will be trophies to hand out (made by me in Jo-Ann’s crafting class), prizes, stories, speeches (maybe not speeches) but a lot of fun and fellowship. A friend suggested we name it the Inoke Brecterfield Memorial Trophy... very funny guy.
As of today we have 33 golfers signed up. We want more to join us! Readers on Facebook are certainly welcome also.
We still need those POV’ers sponsoring foursomes and signage, etc… to finalized who, what and how much. I want to be sure everyone knows you don’t have to be a golfer to attend. I was mistaken the other day when I said singles were charged $75 to attend. That is to play golf and have food, etc…
Guys who just want to attend to jeer at the golfers, drink, eat and talk Pitt football is going to be much less. I’ll let you know the particulars soon on that bit. I don’t want to make each article about the Golf Outing but I’ll put up a more formal detailed piece nest week.
Also – we’ll do another Round Table Call-in on Tuesday evening without the recording screw-up on my part. We sure did have fun talking though – Ike, Pittman4ever and PittPT are great fans and really know their stuff.
Just for fun and good memories: