Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Pitt Football Final Unit Grades for 2014 Season- Offense

Quarterbacks: This was quite an iffy position for the first half of the season. Redshirt sophomore Chad Voytik struggled passing in his first season as a starter, but he compensated some by running well. In the second half of the season, however, Voytik's passing improved while he continued to be successful running also.

In the first six games Voytik was 84-143 (58.7%) for 949 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. He also ran for 169 yards. In the final six games Voytik was 74-109 (67.9%) for 1,062 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions while running for 257 more yards. For the season Voytik completed 62.7% for 2,011 yards, 15 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and ran for 426 yards. He was also only sacked 19 times. He ranked 30th nationally in passing.

Voytik clearly got better as the season progressed, even more impressive when considering the fact that the competition was tougher. Voytik got more confident as he gained experience. He's also tough as nails and a great leader.

Behind Voytik there was virtually nobody else and the Panthers dodged a major bullet with Voytik staying healthy. Former walk-on Trey Anderson completed 11 of 18 passes and threw a touchdown. Adam Bertke successfully redshirted.

Bottom line: Voytik made strides though he still isn't capable of winning a game by himself. That day may come, though, if he continues to improve. With the lack of depth and a starter that can't win games by himself, the grade can only be so high, but the future with Voytik is bright.

Last Season's Final Grade: B-
Preseason Grade: C-
Midseason Grade: D+
Final Grade: C

Running Back: James Conner had an All-American caliber season and had more votes than any player on the ACC all-conference team. He was virtually unstoppable when the offensive line and the threat of Voytik gave him any chance at all. On the season he ran for 1,675 yards and an impressive 6.0 yards a carry. That was the fourth highest total in the country.  He was also second in the nation with 24 TDs, which also broke Tony Dorsett's school record. Not much more to say then he's a superstar.

As if Conner wasn't enough, backup true freshman Chris James displayed lightening speed and a tantalizing future by rushing for 404 yards and a 4.9 average. He also had 4 touchdowns. Isaac Bennett ran hard and averaged 5.3 yards a carry and 255 yards. He also caught 12 passes with an impressive 10.4 yards a catch. He had both a rushing and a receiving touchdown. Rachid Ibrahim was even more impressive with 221 yards rushing and an incredible 7.9 average. He also showed his normal great hands out of the backfield with 9 catches. If that wasn't enough Jaymar Parrish is one of the best blockers in the nation. He's technically an H-Back but he is often in the backfield as if he's a traditional fullback.

Bottom line: This is my first ever final grade of an A+, and for good reason. An All-American caliber 250-pound record setting halfback, lighting speed with James, tough runner with Bennett, versatility with Ibrahim, and a devastating blocker. The Pitt backfield is the real deal.

Last Season's Final Grade: C
Preseason Grade: B
Midseason Grade: A
Final Grade: A+

Wide Receiver: This unit has a superstar in the fantastic sophomore Tyler Boyd, and then an enormous drop off.  Even with the passing game struggling for much of the season, and no other viable options to throw to, Boyd still came up with 69 catches for 1,149 yards, a 16.7 avg., and 8 touchdowns.  As Voytik progressed, so did Boyd. In the first half of the season Boyd had 428 receiving yards. In the second half of the season he had 721 yards receiving yards.

Manasseh Garner was the other starter for most of the season though injuries cost him the last three games. Even before that, though, his season was a disappointment with 17 catches for 211 yards (11.8 avg.), and 2 touchdowns. Sophomore Dontez Ford filled in for Garner but has only 3 catches for 50 yards on the season. Kevin Weatherspoon chipped in 12 catches for 149 yards. Ronald Jones has 9 catches for 79 yards but he's back in the doghouse and he hasn't played in the last four games. Adonis Jennings inexplicably had his redshirt burned for 6 catches and 55 yards.

If you're counting at home that means Boyd had 69 catches and the other six wide receivers that caught a pass totaled 48.

Bottom line: Boyd is one of the best Pitt Panthers ever but the rest of the unit was extremely weak this season.

Last Season's Final Grade: B
Preseason Grade: B
Midseason Grade: C
Final Grade: C

Tight Ends: Every time I get to this unit I am disappointed. The talent is there, but unfortunately they don't get to show it. Unless of course you watch them block. The starter, J.P. Holtz, had just 18 catches for 166 yards, and 3 TDs. But he continues to be a devastating blocker. Injury prone Scott Orndoff continues to disappoint and had just 3 catches on the season. The H-Back Parrish added 4 catches for 25 yards.

Bottom line: I used to give this unit the benefit of the doubt but with Orndoff disappointing so much I finally have to lower their grade. But Holtz and Parrish are such wonderful blockers that it still gets a positive grade.

Last Season's Final Grade: B
Preseason Grade: A-
Midseason Grade: B
Final Grade: B-

Offensive Line: It seemingly took forever for the Panthers to have a good offensive line again but that day has finally come. Right tackle TJ Clemmings completed his transformation to defense by becoming All-ACC First Team and a possible fist round draft pick. Guard Matt Rotheram made third team and had a good year. The other three starters were more hit or miss, but thankfully more hit than miss.

Starting center Artie Rowell went down very early but redshirt freshman Alex Officer proved that he could be an all-star in the future. He didn't have the experience or leadership qualities of Rowell but he still didn't miss a beat because he is more physically talented than Rowell.

The other two positions were divided by redshirt sophomore Adam Bisnowaty, true sophomore Dorian Johnson, and redshirt freshman Jaryd Jones-Smith. The youth is evident, but the talent is there. Bisnowaty started at left tackle, but would rotate to guard in place of Johnson, and Jones-Smith took over for Bisnowaty.  All three were inconsistent at times, especially in the middle of the season when even Clemmings had some bad moments, but the fact that the Panthers are No. 14 nationally in rushing and Voytik was sacked just 19 times is all you need to know.

Bottom line: Finally the day has come and it was worth the wait. And the best part is, the unit should be even better for years to come.

Last Season's Final Grade: D+
Preseason Grade: C+
Midseason Grade: B-
Final Grade: B

Overall:  It's pretty obvious that the offense was mostly Conner and Boyd, but it worked. The coaches used them as often as they could, they stayed healthy, and they didn't buckle. They lived up to their lofty reputation as players and leaders. And when Voytik noticeably improved as the season went on, Conner and Boyd improved even more. The offensive line also improved as did the great blocking from Holtz and Parrish.

Put it all together and the Panthers were No. 41 in total offense, No. 14 in rushing, No. 28 in first downs, No. 13 in fourth down percentage, No. 21 in 3rd down percentage, 23rd in red zone offense, and 12th in tackles for loss allowed. Put it all together and that's an offense that's much better than average. And this is with a quarterback that's not a finished product, one passing target, and a majority of the line that's still very young.  What does it all mean? Mostly that Paul Chryst has built a very good offense, but it's still only half built. It should only get much better.


  1. Last paragraph. "one passing target"
    I would disagree.
    There are many players Voytik could/should pass to but he locks in on Boyd every time or runs if Boyd not open. Sometimes forces a throw to Boyd which Boyd comes up with! If not for Boyd incredible catches, Voytik passing numbers would be worse.

    1. Why wouldn't you throw to a player the caliber of Boyd? Voytik did seem to force it to him early in the season but as they year went along it seemed like Boyd was really the only one open. Should he have forced throws to less talented receivers?

    2. Voytik didn't throw much.
      When it did, he only targeted Boyd.
      Many other talent receivers. Also TE's to throw to. Many were wide open yet Voytik forced it to Boyd for "jump ball".
      Did you watch the games?

    3. I hate to break it to you but those WRs and TEs can't get open.

    4. Absolutely. The were certainly missed opportunities, but the WRs ran bad routes, quit on routes, and didn't make catches that D1 players should be making.

  2. Did you ever see the balls thrown up for grabs by Rutherford to Fitz? That was no indictment of Rutherford it just meant Fitz was an incredible talent so let him make plays, same with Boyd. Voytik needed to throw those balls to Boyd. Voytik did lock onto Boyd at times but all QB's lock onto their best target, but when watching replays other guys were not running wide open in the end zone consistently.
    Furthermore, his passing numbers were close to outstanding for a 1st time starter and a sophomore that was being used the wrong way in the first few games. Look at his completion %, TD to int's, even yards per attempt and Voytik had a very god overall season, especially the last 6 games or so. Any more improvement next year and he will be sitting right near the top of the ACC qb's next year. I'm excited to see Voytik and the rest of the offense next year. The D, well.....pghfan1992

    1. Voytik is ranked 89th in Passing yards.
      Threw 252 times.
      Ran 102 times. Way too much.

    2. Why is it too much? He was recruited to play that style of offense and when he threw as the season went on it was successful. The offense as a whole was very successful as the season progressed. Only Akron (go figure) stopped this team on offense. Does it need more polish, yes, does it need a 2nd and 3rd option, on passing plays, yes. But Voytik's running is essential to this team and helped limit his sacks and convert 3rd downs. And the stats you quoted are pilfering something that isn't a negative, the minimal amount of throwing. As Voytik progresses he will throw more but Pitt was not behind a lot so there was need no need to throw 40 a game consistently. Stats like completion % and yards per attempt, he is around top 20 and are proof when they threw it, Pitt was successful. With James, Conner and thre mobile Voytik what coach in their right mind would throw more than 15-20 passes a game? But, when they do, is it successful, and Pitt was and I'd be surprised if that changes much next year unless game situations dictate it, that is who this team is. pghfan1992

  3. Very fair grades. I'd like to see Officer replaced by a presumably healthy Rowell next year unless he improves hiking the ball quite a bit. His athleticism is there, but god is he frustrating. Move him to Right Guard unless Bookser or Grimm are ready. Jones-Smith take Clemmings spot. The line looks awesome for the next several years. As far as our A+ runningbacks, we trade Sir Isaac for either 4 Star Fr. Hall, 3 star rsFr. Ollison, or simply more touches for Ibrahim and James. I can't foresee a drop off next year unless the line stagnates. Of all the players this year, Voytik surprised me most. He was alarmingly poor to start the year, but really very clearly better by the end. He may yet live up to that elite high school ranking.

    Conner was just named ACC Player of the Year and ACC offensive Player of Year. That's two years in a row we've had one of the ACC Players of the Year with Donald winning it last year. Quite an accomplishment. With some decent passing, no reason Boyd can't do it next year. If I was a local kid, I'd find Pitt a pretty compelling situation. Go be Robert Foster and be passed up, or come to Pitt and get named ACC first team your second year like Boyd. Easy choice for me.

  4. Thanks Chris, nice job. Will undoubtedly be more critical of the defense. The one thing you mentioned that is mindboggling is using up Jennings' redshirt this year for 6 catches. The only thing I can surmise is that they promised him and his family that he would play in his freshman year. But even for his family that makes no sense for his future development. Has anyone asked Coach Chryst specifically about this? Not that I'm expecting that he will admit he'd take a mulligan (which I think he would).

  5. I think you are overly critical of Voytik giving him a C. If he is 30th in the country, and there are ~120 ish FBS teams, that puts him rigth at the top 25%. How does a sophomore quarterback in his first year as a starter get a C if he is better that 75% of his colleagues ?

    1. He is 86th in the country in passing yards.
      He is NOT better than 75%.
      Using the QB rating for passing is not accurate to compare someone who makes 20 throws per game versus someone else making 35 throws.
      If you recall, Voytik was very hessitant in making throws the first half of season. So when the 1st read wasn't open, he would make a run for it.

  6. Yes, if I wanted to be picky, I would take the + from the RB grade and add it to the QB grade. The reason for removing the + from the RB is due to the amount of fumbles committed. Conner, himself, turned the ball over at least 3 times within the opponents 10 yard line .. and James fumbled a few times but at least two of them were recovered by Pitt.

    Maybe I'm being too picky but an A+ grade requires near perfection.