Steelers notebook: Former Pitt star Tyler Boyd says his versatility is key to NFL future
February 26, 2016 12:00 AM
Darron Cummings/Associated Press
Tyler Boyd responds to a question during a news conference Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
INDIANAPOLIS — Tyler Boyd did more than just catches passes at Pitt and Clairton High School. He was a multi-purpose player who would line in the backfield, runs jet sweeps and return kicks.
He is hoping to do the same in the NFL.
“I am an athlete and I believe my abilities are best suited to do it all from the return game to the receiver game to jet sweeps, pitches or anything,” Boyd said Thursday at the NFL Combine in Lucas Oil Stadium. “I believe I am an athlete.”
Boyd decided to forgo his final season at Pitt to enter the draft and is considered one of the top six or seven receiving prospects available. In three years at Pitt, he finished as the school’s career leader in receptions (254) and receiving yards (3,361) and his 5,243 all-purpose yards were second to Tony Dorsett.
“I [felt] coming out of high school that I was capable of taking a couple handoffs in the backfield because I was experienced at that position and I felt comfortable,” Boyd said. “We talked about that prior to the season, and it was a way to create more ways for me to touch the ball other than lining up at receiver.”
Boyd was asked about an incident last summer in which he was taken into custody and charged with driving under the influence after an early morning traffic stop in Jefferson Hills.
Boyd admitted to have two shots while watching an NBA playoff game when police questioned him about the smell of alcohol on his breath. Because Boyd, 20, is underage, any blood-alcohol content of more than .02 will result in a DUI. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi suspended Boyd from all team activities for a month and the 2015 season opener.
“I have grown a lot since that,” Boyd said. “My decision-making skills definitely improved. As I aged, I made sure I surrounded myself with all the right people. At the time, I feel that my circle was too big and I eliminated a lot of things. I realized what I had to do to handle myself and not follow after other people.”
Hackenberg stays positive
Former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is trying to find the bright side of what he went through his past two seasons with the Nittany Lions. He thinks it will prepare him for when he gets to the NFL.
“Overall, the entire experience was a huge positive for me,” Hackenberg said. “There was a ton of adversity. But it was stuff you’re going to deal with at this level. You see it year in and year out. Changing systems. New coaches. New personnel. So, it was a great experience for me. Having the opportunity to do that at 18, 19 years old, it’s only prepared me for the rest of my career.”
Hackenberg’s college career has been on a downward spiral since he flourished under Bill O’Brien’s system as a heralded freshman. Under James Franklin’s system, he was turned into an inaccurate, uncertain quarterback whose numbers conflicted with his prototypical size and arm strength.
It was almost as if he couldn’t wait to get out of Penn State when he announced he was entering the draft moments after the Nittany Lions lost against Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl — a game he did not finish because of a shoulder injury. It was an ignominious end to his stay at Penn State.
Still, Hackenberg should get favorable reviews at the combine because his measurables are very impressive.
Asked what he would like NFL teams to know about him, Hackenberg said: “The most important thing is that I’m trustworthy. I’ve been through adversity. I’m battle-tested. And I’ve handled it and haven’t flinched and am still willing to work and not hurt from it. I can continue to get better. I think my potential is here and I think I’m on the right path to reach it.”
The Cincinnati Bengals’ success — they’ve made the postseason six of the past seven years — has resulted in the franchise becoming a breeding ground for opportunity.
The Bengals have lost three coordinators to NFL head coaching positions the past two years. Jay Gruden (Washington Redskins) and Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings) after the 2014 season and Hue Jackson (Cleveland Browns) this season.
Zimmer and Gruden made the postseason in their first years with their respective teams.
“No. 1, Mike Brown does a great job helping coaches grow,” Zimmer said, referring to the Bengals owner. “He’s very, very loyal to them. He’s solid in everything. His upbringing is unbelievable.
“And Marvin [Lewis] has done a great job with all of us. He helped me grow tremendously. He helped me in a lot of different ways. We’ve done a lot of things [in Minnesota] that Marvin has done with some of the things we do with the team overall. One of the big things about that is it shows that you can be a good guy and be a good coach.”
Ole Miss makes impact
Mississippi has three players who could be among the top 20 picks in the draft, including the No. 1 overall selection — tackle Laremy Tunsil.
The Tennessee Titans have the top pick in the draft and are interested in improving their offensive line and protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota, the No.2 overall pick last year.
The Titans allowed an NFL-high 54 sacks in 2015, fueling speculation they will take Tunsil with the No. 1 overall pick. Tunsil (6 feet 5, 310 pounds) has long arms — they were measured at 34¼ inches — and is considered a future Pro Bowler.
“Everybody wants to be the No. 1 pick,” Tunsil said. “Being the No. 1 pick would be great. I’d love to play for any team. That’s been my goal since I was a little kid, man. Just to accomplish one of those goals, it would be great.”
The Titans’ current left tackle is Taylor Lewan, their No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, but he could be switched to the other side to make room for Tunsil.
“I think Taylor can play a lot of positions,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “I think he is capable of playing [right tackle] if the situation arose.”
Tunsil isn’t the only Ole Miss player who is considered the best, or among the best, at his position at the combine.
Laquon Treadwell is rated as the top wide receiver and Robert Nkemdiche is considered among the top interior defensive linemen.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com and Twitter @gerry dulac.
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