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Pitt

Panther Hollow: Essential Bear Eager To Revamp Pitt Offense

By Matt Popchock
Clairton Football Recruits

Clairton football seniors and Pitt commits Titus Howard (left), Tyler Boyd (center), and Terrish Webb (right), mug it up for the cameras after signing their national letters of intent. (Photo Credit: CBS Pittsburgh)

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CLAIRTON (93-7 THE FAN) — When Clairton senior Tyler Boyd signed his letter of intent Wednesday morning, Paul Chryst officially got an out-of-this-world local talent. In fact, it sounds like Chryst is willing to go outside his own world to best utilize that talent.

“They came to my house the Thursday before the [Tennessee] visit, showing me plays,” said Boyd, a MaxPreps All-American and top-100 prospect, of Chryst and his staff. “I’m going to get carries from the backfield, the wildcat…everything I’m doing at Clairton. Why pass that up?”

He was recruited as a receiver, and, with highly accomplished Devin Street the only proven playmaker returning at that spot, that’s his best bet for first-year playing time. But he certainly made more of a name for himself on the ground–whenever his feet touched it, anyway.

A Big 33 selection and two-time PIAA Class A Football Player of the Year, Boyd will finish high school as the No. 5 rusher in WPIAL history with 5,755 yards, having broken eventual teammate Rushel Shell’s WPIAL career touchdown record by scoring 117, including a district-high 43 rushing and 51 total as a senior.

Although Chryst took more of a meat-and-potatoes approach with Tino Sunseri, a Dave Wannstedt recruit, at the trigger, it stood to reason he might add a few extra pages to the playbook now that he gets to mold his own hand-picked players. Still, the second-year Pitt coach has never run unconventional sets like the wildcat with any regularity, not even when agile Russell Wilson led Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl in Chryst’s final year as the team’s offensive coordinator.

But it wasn’t just those newfangled X’s and O’s that helped Boyd make up his mind. What kept him in lock-step with Clairton teammates Terrish Webb and Titus Howard, who concurrently signed with Pitt Wednesday as defensive backs, was his strong relationship with that staff, and, in particular, his long-standing one with receivers coach Bobby Engram.

“West Virginia, Tennessee, and Pitt all called me. I ignored every call but his,” said Boyd, who expressed no regrets about his verbal commitment to the Panthers despite carefully weighing visits to Morgantown and Knoxville. “He’s been loyal to me, been there since day one, and he’s called me every week, so our relationship was great. I couldn’t just leave him like that.”

Boyd obviously didn’t want to leave behind Webb or Howard. Whether or not you’re surprised by what Boyd might do on game day, he says fans shouldn’t be surprised if those other All-PIAA honorees become as valuable as he.

“They’re capable of making plays just like me. When I was shut down, they would make plays,” Boyd said. “Everybody underestimates them because of national rankings, but they should be nationally ranked because they’re just as good as me.”

Howard was dangerous on both sides of the ball throughout his senior season, and Webb, a ball-hawk not unlike Howard, will forever be remembered for his two amazing touchdown grabs in a WPIAL Championship rout of Sto-Rox, Clairton’s state-record 60th consecutive win.

Tom Nola’s “Killer T’s,” who replicated that success in Hershey four years in a row, were regulars throughout Clairton’s 63-game winning streak. Throw in the highly confident trio, and Chryst’s first full recruiting class, no matter who ranks it and how, appears anything but regular.

“With us finally committed, we’re at that stage where they can compete against the best. We’re all competitors, nobody puts fear in our hearts. I know what they’re capable of, and we know we’re gonna ball out,” Boyd crowed.

So were those splash plays at Heinz Field on Black Friday–or, dare we say, Black-and-Orange Friday–a harbinger of things to come?

The Pitt offense, teachers and students alike, went through obvious growing pains in 2012, but, in defense of Chryst, he did not repeat the mistakes of guys like Todd Graham and Walt Harris by trying to fit square pegs into round holes. He will build around whatever skill is at his disposal, and by getting two other WPIAL headline-grabbers, Shell and J.P. Holtz, involved in the offense as pure freshmen, he proved he’s willing to take talent at face value and roll the dice with the less experienced. He proved he will give great players a fair chance to be great.

Furthermore, if there’s one thing the college and pro game has taught us recently, it’s that dual-threat athletes such as Wilson, Collin Klein, Colin Kaepernick, and Robert Griffin III are likely the future, not just a fad. If this program is to finally get with the program, perhaps mimicking the versatility of the “Bout Dat” Bears is the best thing Pitt can do.

“Pittsburgh and the WPIAL have great talent,” said Boyd, “and now we’re about to show everybody.”

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

Check out the Panther Hollow blog at 937thefan.com for more.