Quarterback Chad Voytik knows he still has a long way to go before he's ready to step up under center in a live game.
Getting ready to enter his redshirt freshman season at Pitt, though, he also recognizes how far he has come.
"I feel a lot further along," Voytik said. "When I came in last year, I had like five plays where the coaches were like, 'OK, we're going to start with these, master these.' And now, for the most part, I'm grasping everything that we're putting in."
Voytik entered his first spring practice with Pitt vying for the vacant starting quarterback spot. Panthers coach Paul Chryst hasn't publicly named a front-runner, but fifth-year senior Tom Savage has taken virtually all of the first-team snaps in Pitt's spring drills.
At this point, still five months away, Voytik isn't concerned about his spot on the nonexistent depth chart.
"It's a competition," he said. "It's open, but you really don't want to concentrate too much on that, you just want to play, do the best you can and let it all take care of itself, really."
Chryst said earlier this week that Voytik has started to look more comfortable in the offense. Over the past few weeks, Voytik's accuracy has increased and so have the results. In Pitt's second scrimmage of the spring, he completed 12 of his 17 pass attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown.
"I don't get the sense that we have to hold back for Chad," Chryst said.
Voytik credited a good deal of his growth to the redshirt he took.
"When I came in, you're thinking 'Compete, compete,' " Voytik said. "You're going to do all that you can, but realistically there was a redshirt senior [Tino Sunseri] who had started for [two] years, so you don't come in thinking, 'I should have the job.' You have to be realistic with yourself and don't let that limit the work that you put in, but just let it push you even harder. Throughout fall camp, you realize what it's heading toward, but I try not to let that affect my work ethic."
Looking back, Voytik said he appreciated the year off. With Savage serving as the scout-team quarterback, Voytik was able to work with Pitt's playbook and learn Pitt's offensive playbook.
Even though he was originally recruited by former Pitt coach Todd Graham to play in his spread offense, Voytik said he has gotten comfortable with Chryst's pro-style system.
"Of course everyone wants to play, but [the redshirt year] was good for me," Voytik said. "I feel like I made the most of that time and it really helped me as a player, especially in this offense, there's a lot to take in. If there's a system to redshirt in, I feel like this is a good one."
This spring, part of Voytik's job description is also helping true freshman Tra'von Chapman acclimate in his first semester in college, who graduated from high school early to join the Panthers this spring.
Chapman has been the third-team quarterback for Pitt this spring. Like Voytik, he appears headed for a redshirt.
"I know, probably more than anyone because I just experienced it, what he's feeling, where his head is and stuff," Voytik said. "I'm trying to do what I can. I want to help him as much as I can."mobilehome - pittsports
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG.