Jan 2, 2015; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Chad Voytik (16) against the Houston Cougars during the second half of the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Houston won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Over the next month and a half, City of Champions Sports staffer Chris Logue and I will preview position-by-position for the 2015 Pitt Panthers football squad.
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Today, I will focus on the most important position in football.
For years, I have seen several talented Pitt wide receivers and running backs bust out on the national college football scene, yet Pitt has not been able to land a coveted quarterback, nor have a quarterback become its best player.
If you look at past National Champions, several of those teams have a common link: a playmaking quarterback who can take over a football game. Ohio State has three of them.
Does Pitt have one or two?
Redshirt junior quarterback Chad Voytik is coming off of his first season as the Pitt starting quarterback, and he recently attended the Manning Passing Academy. One of about 40 college quarterbacks invited to the camp, Voytik was a counselor to high school players and was able to compare himself to other top quarterbacks from across the country.
Coming off a season where he threw for 2,233 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions, Chad considers himself a leader for Pitt, and he hopes to take the Panthers into some uncharted territory. He completed 61% of his passes (176 of 287) and ranked 3rd in the ACC in pass efficiency (140.2).
Along with running back James Conner and offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty, Voytik was named to the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy, an award that factors in community service and on-field success.
According to ESPN, in Chad Voytik’s last five games, his adjusted quarterback rating of 88.1 (9 total TDs and 1 interception) was sixth-best in the country, ahead of Bryce Petty of Baylor and Cody Kessler of USC and nearly identical to Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Not too shabby, eh?
Also according to ESPN, from Nov. 1 through the bowl season, Pitt had the lowest offensive turnover rate in the country, ranked 3rd in points per drive (3.31), and ranked 12th in points per game (36.4) among the Power 5 schools.
With the First Pick
To me, this signifies a quarterback that is efficient and able to lead a dangerous offense. If Pitt can perform an entire season at this level, the offense will not be the problem (the defense has work left to do, though).
Voytik, the 6-foot-1, 215 pound Armed Forces Bowl MVP, has mobility, a strong arm, and he gained valuable experience last season. He rushed for 466 yards (second behind Conner) and three TDs on 108 carries. In my opinion, he will be the difference maker in the success of the 2015 Pitt Panthers in Coach Pat Narduzzi’s first season.
Despite starting all games last season, Voytik will be pushed in practice by incoming redshirt junior quarterback Nathan Peterman, who transferred from Tennessee this offseason and is immediately eligible. At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, he will have two remaining years of eligibility. Peterman threw for 94 yards on 20 of 43 passes with two interceptions over two seasons, but he transferred to Pitt with the hopes of starting.
Others who will battle in practice include 6-foot-6, 235 pound Adam Bertke, who redshirted as a true freshman last season. He was a three-time state champion quarterback at Marion Local High School in Ohio, where he compiled a 41-4 record, throwing for 6,272 yards and 58 touchdowns. Bertke has the size of an NFL quarterback and will look to compete for the starting role.
Incoming true freshman Ben DiNucci became the first player in Pennsylvania history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season, passing for 4,269 yards and 46 touchdowns. The local playmaker led Pine Richland to a 15-1 record and an appearance in the PIAA title game, and he was PA’s 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year. DiNucci will likely redshirt this season, but there is certainly for potential with stats like that.
Sophomore Nathan Bossory is a 6-foot-3, 240 pound transfer from Air Force. He joined Pitt as a mid-year transfer, and he did not play football in 2014.
I expect Voytik to retain the starting job, but it is nice to have positional depth with Peterman, Bertke, DiNucci, and Bossory.