Boyd has no plans of fading next year for Panthers
December 20, 2013 11:26 PM
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Pitt's Tyler Boyd carries against Miami in the second quarter at Heinz Field Nov. 29.
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Since his high school days at Clairton, Tyler Boyd has been confident in his abilities on the football field.
It's not really an arrogance -- more of just a quiet self-assurance that he knows the plays he is capable of making.
Still, even Boyd admitted he was a little surprised by his immediate success as a freshman receiver this season at Pitt. Boyd set a Pitt freshman record with 77 catches for 1,001 yards and seven touchdowns.
His remarkable season was honored last week when he was named to the All- Atlantic Coast Conference second team, one of only three freshmen to make the first or second team.
"I was just pumped," Boyd said. "I wasn't expecting any of these accolades or my performance the whole year. I just wanted to come in here, fit in the team, make plays for the team and help win."
He credited receivers coach Bobby Engram for getting him to slow down and play within himself. Boyd is capable of highlight-reel grabs, but also has demonstrated a strong understanding of fundamentals such as route-running.
"The whole game just came to me," Boyd said. "Coach Bobby Engram always told me, 'Don't try to make the huge play. Don't try to be the number one playmaker. Just go out there and play your game and it'll all come to you.' I just listen to him when he says it."
Most of the season, Boyd had the luxury of playing across the field from senior receiver Devin Street, who made the all-ACC third team with 51 catches for 854 yards and seven scores.
Street missed most of Pitt's final two games with various injuries, though. Even without him on the field to deflect attention, Boyd caught 19 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.
Coach Paul Chryst said Thursday that Street's status was "wait and see" for Pitt's Dec. 26 game against Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit.
"Not being out there with him, it just doesn't feel right," Boyd said. "He's got to come back. I think it'd be easier on me. Our game is just too good together for us to not be on the field together."
Boyd also said he tried to take on more of a leadership role in Street's absence. That likely will be a step he tries to take next year, too, with Street graduating and the Panthers breaking in a new starting quarterback.
"From Day 1, I've just been watching Dev be a leader out there on the offense," Boyd said. "I'm just watching step by step. He's done a real great job."
One adjustment that hasn't been a problem for Boyd is the long grind of a college football season. While most freshmen are used to wrapping up their seasons around Thanksgiving, Boyd is accustomed to playing into December, as Clairton won the PIAA title each of his four years there.
"I've just got to keep pushing, keep practicing," he said. "Even when I don't want to practice, even when I'm hurt, tired, legs are killing me, [or] I don't feel like doing it. This is my job. I've got to do it."
Todd Rice resigned as the team's strength and conditioning coach, a school official confirmed in an email.
Rice was hired by Chryst when Chryst took the head coaching job in 2012, and spent the past two seasons as the head strength and conditioning coach.
The school did not provide a reason for Rice's resignation. Pitt will hire a full-time replacement some time after Jan. 1.
Pitt has had problems with back injuries this season, especially along the offensive line. Left guard Cory King and left tackle Adam Bisnowaty have missed multiple games with back issues.
Chryst said earlier this year that the spate of injuries was something he would look into in the offseason and make adjustments if necessary.
"You are concerned about [injuries]," Chryst said. "You don't know what drove those. Did it just happen? Is it something we are doing? You go through all of that and try to answer it."
■ Little Caesars Bowl: Pitt vs. Bowling Green, 6 p.m.
■ Where: Ford Field, Detroit.
■ TV: ESPN
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG.
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