PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Not many new starting quarterbacks get a chance to put fans at ease before they start a game.
Pitt’s projected starting quarterback had that chance in the Little Caesar’s Bowl back in December, and he made the most of it.
Faced with a tie game and without injured starting quarterback Tom Savage, Pitt turned to Chad Voytik.
The redshirt freshman delivered by completing five of nine passes for 108 yards to go with a touchdown run in a 30-27 Panthers win. Along the way, Voytik showed his ability goes beyond the ability to scramble by stretching the field with a 62-yard pass to Tyler Boyd.
“I thought I overthrew that ball,” said Voytik. “He [Tyler Boyd] ran right under it. That’s kind of a secret, I guess.”
The strength of Voytik’s arm may have been a revelation to Pitt fans, but it was something else that carried into spring practice.
That bowl game served as validation for Voytik as he battled through a nervous start to prove he has the ability to win at the major college level.
“After I got a few passes in and said to myself, ‘I’m seeing the defense. I can make these throws.’ It kept going,” Voytik recalls of his first significant college playing time. “The pass to Tyler, everything started building on each other. I was calm, and I was having fun. At that point, I wasn’t nervous or anything like that.”
With that experience behind him, Voytik is now the projected starter for the Panthers’ second season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
He’s embracing everything about his new role, including extensive practice time.
With only two quarterbacks on the roster, Voytik and redshirt junior Trey Anderson are sharing all of the practice repetitions. It’s a heavy workload, but something Voytik sees as another opportunity.
“Seeing it on the field is truly how I learn,” says the former four-star recruit from Cleveland, Tenn. “So, I’m really grateful for that opportunity.”
The offseason also brought an unexpected opportunity for Voytik.
With Brooks Bollinger’s surprising resignation as quarterbacks coach, Pitt head coach Paul Chryst took over the quarterback meeting room.
Voytik learns something every day about Chryst’s personality and work ethic, but he’s learning even more about the offense.
By working with Chryst, who designed Pitt’s system back when he was an offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, Voytik is adding the background info beyond the X’s and O’s.
“With a quarterback coach sometimes there might be disconnect,” explained Voytik. “They read it one way. The head coach might read it another way. With Coach Chryst being the guy that brought in this offense, to now have him teach the quarterbacks, that’s awesome.”
The greatest challenge on the field so far this spring might be a surprise.
Voytik is blessed to be the quarterback who gets to throw to freshman All-American wide receiver Tyler Boyd, but he’s trying to avoid using the Clairton native as a crutch this spring.
By avoiding forcing the ball to Pitt’s premier playmaker, Voytik is hoping to become well-rounded in his knowledge of the Panthers’ offense.
“It’s hard because he’s an easy target,” said Voytik. “Right now, I’m just trying to pretend he’s not the player that he is and just learn the offense like I’m supposed to. Those kind of situations will come in the games.”