Any late decommitment will hurt a recruiting class, but Wade Freebeck’s flip from Pitt to Vanderbilt last week did more than just ding the Panthers’ recruiting rating.
It left Paul Chryst and company with a precarious quarterback situation heading into 2014.
Of course, even if Freebeck had stuck with his commitment, Pitt will have just two quarterbacks on its roster at the start of spring practice next month. With last year’s starter Tom Savage now graduated, redshirt sophomore Chad Voytik and senior Trey Anderson are Chryst’s only options for spring drills.
The depth issues will improve slightly in the fall when freshman Adam Bertke — the lone quarterback in Pitt’s 2014 recruiting class — arrives on campus, but that will still give the Panthers three quarterbacks with no collegiate starts between them.
Chryst said that, ideally, his goal is to take one quarterback in each recruiting class so there always are four or five on the roster.
“I think, program-wise, we’re under right now,” Chryst said.
“This spring we’re going with two and I’m excited about adding Adam. I think it’s going to be good for this spring. Chad and Trey are going to get a lot of work, and when Adam comes in, he’ll get some work. That part I’m excited about.”
Voytik appears to be a sure bet to win the starting job, and showed promise during his only significant action of 2013 when he played in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. He threw for 108 yards in relief of an injured Savage and led the Panthers to a win in the second half.
Quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger said Voytik was disappointed with his performances in very limited duty before the bowl game, but has seen an influx in confidence since that performance in Detroit.
“That’s how the world works right?” Bollinger said. “You finally get a girl to say yes to go to the dance and you’ve got a little more hop in your step after that.”
Beyond Voytik, though, the depth gets questionable. Anderson is a senior, but he has seen limited duty as a backup over the past three years. Bertke is rated three-star quarterback by Rivals.com, but asking any freshman to step in during his first year is a daunting proposition.
Bollinger said having just two quarterbacks in the spring will be a slightly unusual situation, but he was looking forward to working with Voytik and Anderson.
“Both Tino [Sunseri] and then Tommy [Savage] were pretty grizzled veterans by the time I got my hands on them,” Bollinger said. ‘That was fun, too, but it had its own challenges, a little bit more like coaching an NFL guy that had been around the block a little bit. Not that these guys know less or anything, but they do have less experience. It’s an exciting challenge for me to kind of start back at the beginning and help them grow and develop.”
There are avenues for the Panthers to bolster their depth if they want to. When Chryst was offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, he didn’t add graduate transfer Russell Wilson until late June. Savage didn’t enroll at Pitt until June 2012.
Southern California transfer Max Wittek reportedly has shown interest in Pitt, but Chryst said he wasn’t actively pursuing any transfer options.
Pitt likely will try to add two quarterbacks in next year’s recruiting cycle, but Bollinger emphasized that quality was more important than quantity.
“The depth thing is just the kind of thing you have to keep trying to fix over time,” Bollinger said. “I don’t think you panic and fill it with just anybody.”
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG