Loose-leaf observations from a tight-bound (Evernote)book.
Pitt blooded 11 freshmen against Florida State two weeks ago. Against New Mexico, freshmen accounted for 37 of Pitt’s 49 points. The other 12 were accounted for by first-year starter Isaac Bennett, who as a junior will be around next year as well.
On James Conner, Isaac Bennett and the Running Game
I really like James Conner. Kid is 6’2″, 230 lbs and runs downhill, as the saying goes. As much as the spotlight has fallen on Tyler Boyd (as well it should), I’m almost more excited about Conner. His stats from the FSU game weren’t great but I felt his had a couple good runs anyway. He’s a hard runner and seems to show a nice burst once he gets through initial contact.
Conner rang up 112 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns. His 38-yard touchdown run was pretty impressive. I’m not necessarily advocating for him to start over Isaac Bennett, who also had a strong game against New Mexico with 101 yards on 14 carries and 2 touchdowns. We all know Chryst’s penchant for creating strong running offenses so there are plenty of carries to go around.
On Tyler Alexander Boyd
Regardless of the level of competition, Tyler Boyd finishing with 195 all-purpose yards (22 return yards, 39 rushing yards, and 134 receiving yards) and two touchdowns is pretty frickin’ good. His touchdown catch at the end of the first half was positively Larry-like.
Talent can only take a kid so far. Boyd has it in abundance. Michael Jordan used to say that performance is based on 10% talent, 90% hard work. With the exception of perhaps Randy Moss, most of the great players work their tails off. Boyd has an immense amount of confidence, which is warranted given his production. But one huge positive I often read is that Boyd works very hard. That’s good to hear. Larry would be proud.
Which is to say, Engram and Chryst told Boyd that if he worked hard, he would play right away. Engram wasn’t worried about Boyd’s work ethic. A superior craftsman of a receiver who finished his NFL career with 650 catches, Engram spotted a kindred spirit in Boyd.
“Over the recruiting process, you get to know these guys pretty well,” Engram said. “I just sensed something special about him. Obviously, he’s a talented player. But the type of young man … he’s grounded, he’s humble, he’s hard-working. When he’s with his boys in the crowd, you can’t tell who he is because he isn’t trying to put himself above anybody.”
At the end of Pitt games, it’s a tradition that the team will walk over to the student section and join the band and students as they sing the Alma Mater. As Boyd was walking over to the students section, a couple little kids yelled over at him and held their hands out. Boyd diverted from the team, walked over to the kids and shook their hands. It’s a small gesture but I admit I was struck by it. You can tell little kids that sports stars shouldn’t be worshiped but good luck making that one stick. I’m sure Boyd made their day.
Adam Bisnowaty also walked over to the kids after singing the alma mater and gave away his game gloves. And a couple other players high-fived fans as they walked off the field. Nice gestures, all.